Employers in Australia are not obligated to provide their employees with smoke breaks, but they are obligated to provide rest and meal breaks. During those breaks, it’s the employee’s decision whether or not they choose to smoke.
In this article, we’ll go over:
- Workplace health and safety obligations
- General obligations for providing breaks at work
- Problems with dismissing employees who smoke
Providing Smoke Breaks
Under the Fair Work Act, employers aren’t obligated to provide smoke breaks, but they are obligated to provide breaks in general. Some modern awards may require you to provide smoke breaks, so it’s always wise to clarify your obligations by checking the award/agreement that covers your employees.
Once you understand your obligations, you can set better boundaries regarding smoke breaks. You may choose to manage smoke breaks within workplace policies with an outline that includes:
- If an employee can take smoke breaks at work
- Designated smoking areas
- Workplace health and safety standards, like banning smoking near hazardous substances like fuel pumps
Providing breaks to smokers may put non-smokers at a disadvantage, since smokers use more break time than non-smokers do. Be wary of this when implementing your policies.
Health and Safety
Smoking doesn’t just pose a risk to the smoker. Secondhand smoke is also very dangerous to non-smokers at the workplace. You are obligated to provide a safe working environment to every employee, which is an important factor to keep in mind.
Dismissal for Smokers
If an employee breaches your service station’s smoking policy, you may be allowed to dismiss them for that, but every case is different, and the lawfulness of the dismissal will depend on the specific circumstances.
If an employee’s habit is considered an addiction, the court may consider it a disability, which means that the employee could have grounds for a claim of unfair dismissal. Dismissing an employee on the sole basis of smoking could be detrimental to your business, so it’s wise to consult an employment lawyer before you move forward.
Smoking at Your Service Station
The Fair Work Act states that you are not obligated to provide smoke breaks to employees, but employees have the right to use their mandated breaks in any way they choose, which may mean smoking.
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