Busting myth of our right to have cig break.
Byline: TAMLYN JONES Business Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THE thorny issue of smoking breaks is never far away from people's lips in the workplace - especially if there are plenty of smokers.
But many aren't sure what they are and are not entitled to in terms of breaks and whether these include 'smoking breaks.'.
The law is actually quite clear - employees are entitled to a 20-minute break during a working day of six hours or more - and this break does not actually have to be paid, it just depends on an individual's contract. Employers can also dictate when staff take their breaks, provided it is uninterrupted and in the middle of the shift. Michael Hibbs, chairman of the employment law committee at Birmingham Law Society said: "Employers are not required to give 'smoking breaks' on top of the usual breaks required under the Working Time Regulations 1998.
"One, uninterrupted 20-minute rest break in a six-hour working day is all that is required. Employers can say when that break happens and then insist that smokers do not smoke near entrances." Smokers have no extra rights to breaks over non-smokers outside of the allotted break time, unless their contract says so.
Fflur Jones, partner at law firm Darwin Gray, said: "Employers are in theory free to impose a complete ban on smoking on site, whether inside or outside. However, such policies may effectively prevent smoking at all during the working day, especially if employees cannot go off site.
"Employees suddenly faced with such a ban could seek to argue that they have at least an implied right, through custom and practice, to smoke somewhere during their breaks, although there is currently no case law support for such a right."