E-Cigarettes at Work

The use of e-cigarettes at work is currently a hot topic. A recent tribunal case has confirmed that employers should update their policies to make sure that their position on vaping in the workplace is clear.

The use of e-cigarettes has really taken off over the last couple of years; currently there are approximately 1.3 million users in the UK. Whether there are any medical side effects from their use remains unclear. There are currently no statutory restrictions on their use at work (unlike traditional cigarettes). Inevitably, this gives rise to questions about whether e-cigarettes are permitted in the workplace and whether employers’ current smoking policies apply to their use as well as to the use of traditional cigarettes.  

A recent tribunal case considered this issue; a school catering assistant was suspended for using an e-cigarette on school premises. She resigned and claimed that she had been constructively unfairly dismissed. The tribunal found against her, but warned that, had the school tried to dismiss her for using an e-cigarette, the dismissal would probably have been unfair. This was on the basis that the school’s smoking policy did not deal with the use of e-cigarettes at all.

With this in mind, employers would be well advised to think about addressing this issue explicitly in their policies and updating them accordingly.  

Of course, whether or not employers choose to allow e-cigarettes is a matter for them; some employers may choose to allow their use (particularly where they believe this would eliminate “smoking breaks”). However, employers would be well advised to proceed with caution; the health effects of inhaling the vapour from e-cigarettes are unclear and employers may well want to ban their use to prevent any potential future claims (such as personal injury claims, particularly from high risk employees such as those who are currently pregnant).

If you would like to discuss this or any other employment issue, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Employment team.