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Q&A: Are We Required to Provide Additional Smoke Breaks?

Question:
Do we have to give employees who smoke additional smoke breaks or allow them to return to work smelling strongly of smoke? We’ve received complaints from both other employees and customers.

Answer from Emily, PHR:
No, you’re not required to provide additional breaks to employees who smoke, and you also don’t have to tolerate them smelling like smoke. These employees can be expected to adhere to the same policies as any other employee. To that end, if you allow for a certain number of breaks of a certain length, employees who smoke aren’t entitled to anything extra. And if you have a policy that addresses smells, you can refer to that when addressing the odor of cigarettes.

If you don’t have specific policies addressing breaks and smells, there’s no time like the present to implement them. Break policies are fairly straightforward, but employers sometimes struggle with delicate issues like hygiene. We recommend saying something like, “The excessive use of perfume or cologne is unacceptable, as are odors that are disruptive or offensive to others or may exacerbate allergies.” This language can be added wherever you think is most appropriate; we fold it into the Personal Appearance and Hygiene policy.

Emily’s robust experience overseeing HR in the non-profit, healthcare, and hospitality industries brings valuable knowledge to clients. She graduated college with degrees in Music and Entrepreneurial Business, and her passion for helping and working alongside people led her to the field of HR. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling and home brewing.

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