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Council to ban staff smoking breaks

Smoking breaks will be banned for thousands of council employees under new proposals.

Nottinghamshire County Council has said its 9,000 employees will be barred from smoking during work time with the ban extending to e-cigarettes.

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Council considers employee smoking break ban

Smoking breaks will be banned for thousands of council employees under new proposals.

Nottinghamshire County Council is proposing a total smoking ban for staff

Nottinghamshire County Council has said its 9,000 employees will be barred from smoking during work time with the ban extending to e-cigarettes, in the mooted plans.

Anyone who fails to stick to the rules could face internal disciplinary action.

The local authority said the ban, to include all council buildings, land and vehicles, was aimed at boosting its workers' health, increasing time spent working and reducing levels of sick leave.

But the largest public sector union Unison has said the stringent rules will be unenforceable and has urged the council to support smokers in quitting rather than haul wayward employees into disciplinary meetings.

The council's deputy director of public health John Tomlinson said smoking was still "public health's number one enemy" and the local authority had committed itself to action.

"We are trying to be a supportive employer and have a duty of care to protect the health of our employees as part of a wider remit to take a leading role in promoting better health in Nottinghamshire.

"If you asked 100 smokers if they wanted to give up, 70 of them would want to.

"With this in mind we want to encourage staff to attend smoking cessation services.

"If they don't want to give up smoking they will get withdrawal symptoms at work because of their nicotine addiction."

– John Tomlinson, Nottinghamshire's deputy director of public health

The council has said it will encourage staff to use alternatives like nicotine patches to kick their habit, arguing the cost to its staff would be cheaper than a packet of cigarettes.

"National research suggests that staff who smoke take more time off work to have breaks and have more sick leave through respiratory problems.

"Another reason for encouraging staff to give up smoking is that they become better role models for their children and the children are less likely to start smoking in the first place if their parents are non-smokers."

– John Tomlinson Nottinghamshire's deputy director of public health

The council has about 9,000 employees across all its departments, excluding teachers.

Employees get a short morning and afternoon break, but no smoking will be allowed during these periods under any ban.

Smoking will be allowed during lunch breaks but not in uniform or anywhere near council property, according to the union, Unison.

"We're supportive of public health and we haven't got a stance on this, but we are balloting members asking whether they would be for or against.

"I don't see yet how they could enforce it. Say you work in highways, if you want to smoke, you need to take all your uniform off and go as far away from site as possible and have a cigarette and then come back.

"You're not going to be able to smoke in your uniform, or if you're standing outside your council workplace or are wearing a council badge or lanyard.

"If you're in the parks department, you won't be able to - even when you're outside.

"If anybody goes out on council business and drives their own car, they won't be able to smoke."

– Brian Fitzpatrick, Unison services conditions officer

Unions will discuss the proposals with the council in the autumn, with the ban expected to come into force early next year.

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