Find out why a smoking policy in the workplace is good business even if you don't have many smokers
If you have more than a few people working in your business, chances are you have some who enjoy a smoke break now and then. Unfortunately, this can lead to a disruption in employee relationships. Why? Those who don't smoke may resent the extra breaks the smokers get. Smokers may resent having to go outside every time they want a cigarette. A good smoking policy in the workplace can sidestep many of these problems before they get a foothold.
There's little doubt at this point that smoking has adverse health consequences. Even people who smoke are aware of that. Smoking tobacco is also a legal activity and therefore isn't something that a business can prohibit entirely without getting into precarious legal territory. There is, however, a need to create positive and productive working conditions for everyone. That's why a smoking policy in the workplace is so important.
Like any policy, the goal is to balance the needs of the business with the needs of different employees. You can use laws as a guideline for creating a policy, but as you know, there's much more to running a business than what the law prescribes.
What the Law Says
There's no simple answer to questions about the law and accommodating both smokers and non-smokers at work. Workplace smoking policies aren't federally regulated, which means that each state is free to set their own standards.
However, some federal regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), may impact how a business attends to the issue. For instance, Workplace Fairness points out that if an employee has a medical condition that is made worse by secondhand smoke, the employer is required by the ADA "to provide certain accommodations to non-smokers." Likewise, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has indoor air quality standards that may limit indoor smoking.
In most cases, though, it is state law that determines the details. And those details can be drastically different. The state of Arizona prohibits smoking in "any enclosed building, unless the statute specifically allows for smoking in that type of place." Nor can smoking take place anywhere "smoke can enter the building or affect those entering or leaving the building."
Indiana, on the other hand, doesn't allow smoking in the workplace but has a list of exceptions, including bars. By contrast, North Carolina only prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, and state government buildings. And Mississippi "does not regulate private workplaces smoking policies."
Looking Beyond the Laws
Given the various state laws, it may seem challenging to incorporate a smoking policy. In fact, it might be easier to tell employees they can't smoke at work at all. That, however, is tenuous ground. While there is a lot an employer can do to discourage smoking, telling an employee what they can or can't do on their own time is, at a minimum, not a good way to encourage loyalty or boost morale.
Non-smoking employees also have a right to a smoke-free workplace. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that secondhand smoke puts non-smokers at a higher risk for heart disease and lung cancer.
Creating a policy that meets the needs of both isn't that difficult, though.
For the health of everyone, including visitors to your business, prohibit smoking anywhere within or near the entrances of your facility. Do designate a protected outdoor space for smokers, though. Include an ashtray and ask those who smoke to take responsibility for keeping the area tidy.
This keeps secondhand smoke away from your non-smoking employees, but doesn't make smokers feel like they need to isolate themselves or leave business grounds.
As for breaks, that may already fall under your business policies. If it doesn't, it's important to put in place a policy that feels fair to everyone. That may be easier said than done, but one approach would be to directly ask your employees for a solution. Perhaps every employee gets "rest breaks" to use as a smoke break or just for relaxing for five minutes.
An ideal smoking policy in the workplace can also act as a health benefit. Include options for helping employees who want to quit. Or better yet, introduce programs that encourage employees to stop smoking and improve their overall health. Smokefree.gov and The American Lung Association both have resources to help.
One way to encourage your employees to take care of themselves is through employee health benefits. Contact your Pekin Insurance agent to learn more about how Pekin Insurance can help your business.