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Is it lawful to discriminate against smokers in the workplace?

by , 11 December 2013
Labour law doesn't govern smoking in the workplace. The Tobacco Products Control Act is the framework you must use to govern this issue. Read on to find out whether or not the Act allows you to discriminate against employees who smoke.

Most South Africans are heavy smokers.

The 2012 Health24 Great SA Smoking Survey, sponsored by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, found that more than 50% of smokers puff between 11 and 30 cigarettes a day, iol reports.

According to the report, the smokers said the pleasurable puff came after day-to-day routines, when stressed or under pressure. About 44% said the most satisfying was after meals, a drink or sex, while 27% said the first cigarette of the day was the most pleasing.

If you're an employer, chances are, some of your employees are smokers. That's why it's important to know what the law allows and doesn't allow when it comes to smoking in the working.

The good news is you can declare your workplace a completely smoke-free zone!

According to Louise Harty of Smoking in the workplace Your A-Z guide to being 100% compliant with smoking legislation, you can state in an advert or through a recruitment agent that your workplace is a non-smoking environment (both indoors and outside the company premises). And that you don't allow employees to take time off for 'smoke breaks'.

So, rather than discriminate against smokers specifically, it's reasonable to specify your workplace conditions related to smoking, including the company's smoking policy, prohibit all smoking.

Here's a sample of what you can say in your advert regarding smoking: 'In the interests of our employees' wellbeing, our workplace has been declared a smoke-free zone. No smoking of any tobacco products is permitted on our premises. Any transgressors may be liable for a fine in terms of the prevailing legislation.'

Well there you have it. The law is on your side.

You're not obliged to accommodate employees who smoke. Just make sure all your employees are aware of your stance regarding smoking in the workplace. If you choose to allow smoking, here are your obligations.

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