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Employers Advised to Support Vaping

Employers Advised to Support Vaping

Public Health England (PHE), the government agency which works to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities, has issued new guidance which advises employers to make a clear distinction between vaping and the smoking of tobacco in their smoking policies.

There are now 2.8 million e-cigarette users in the UK and the PHE guidance brings attention to the need for appropriate policies in public places and workplaces.

PHE’s new framework helps organisations create e-cigarette policies that will support smokers to quit and stay smoke-free, while managing any risks specific to their setting.

In the new guidance on vaping in public places, PHE tells employers that: “E-cigarette use is not covered by smoke-free legislation and should not routinely be included in the requirements of an organisation’s smoke-free policy,” adding that “Vapers should not be required to use the same space as smokers, as this could undermine their ability to quit and stay smoke-free.”

A clear distinction between vaping and tobacco-smoking

The framework guidance says that employers should make a clear distinction between vaping and tobacco-smoking: “E-cigarette use does not meet the legal or clinical definitions of smoking . . . Furthermore, international peer-reviewed evidence suggests that e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes and have the potential to help drive down smoking rates, denormalise smoking and improve public health. So policies need to be clear on the differences between vaping and smoking.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said: “The evidence is clear that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes are helping many smokers to quit . . . This new framework will encourage organisations to consider both the benefits and the risks when developing their own policies on e-cigarettes. Different approaches will be appropriate in different places, but policies should take account of the evidence and clearly distinguish vaping from smoking.”

PHE’s guidance is supported by Cancer Research UK. George Butterworth, tobacco policy manager at the cancer charity, says: “The evidence so far shows e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco and they have the potential to help people give up a deadly addiction. It’s important the benefit of using them are maximised while reducing any negative impact, and organisations need independent advice from Public Health England to set out their own policies.”

Questions about lifestyle choices should not be asked at interview

It is illegal at interviews for employers to ask job-seekers any questions relating to personal lifestyle choices: for example about their consumption of alcohol, whether they smoke or use recreational drugs. A company may set out rules regarding the use of such substances and state what it is and is not permitted at work within the staff handbook. However, what a member of staff does outside of work is not the business of the employer – and therefore no questions can be asked about it at interview.

‘Sitting is the new smoking’

Stephen Bevan, Head of HR Research Development at the Institute of Employment Studies, thinks that “sitting is the new smoking”. He believes that “the more sedentary you are the worse it is for your health.” Prolonged sitting has been linked to detrimental health effects and lost productivity in the workplace. Research suggests that the human body is at its best when it is moving, not when it is spending 8 hours at a time in front of a computer screen.

A new report, ‘Working with Arthritis’, published by Arthritis Research UK, examines the challenges in the workplace faced by people living with a range of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and details the steps needed to be taken by employers, clinicians and policy-makers to make sure that MSDs are not an obstacle to people having long and fulfilling working lives. This is especially the case as the workforce ages and the incidence of obesity in the population increases.

Specialist employment lawyers

We can also help you with the legalities of major organisational changes, restructures and business sales, ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and in compliance with this ever-changing area of the law whilst achieving the business objectives. Call us on 01895 207892. Alternatively email your details to employment@ibblaw.co.uk.