Legal in UK to refuse to employ smokers?

Martin, yes it is legal:

I consider myself a non-smoker but this sort of policy would actually put me off working there. If they banned smoking breaks on work time, that would be okay. If they encouraged people to quit smoking, that would be okay. But this seems like an unwarranted intrusion into the employees’ personal lives.

I do wonder how they define “smoker” also. As I say I consider myself a non-smoker but I have probably smoked about 6 cigars in my life and probably will continue to do so at the rate of a couple per year at special occasions and such.

6 thoughts on “Legal in UK to refuse to employ smokers?

  1. Also, what would happen to an employee who took up smoking whilst employed there? I’m not sure it would be grounds for dismissal on its own (i.e. not also connected with skiving work for fag breaks.)

    There are some weird quirks in employment law it seems. I remember seeing an interview on Channel 4 News with a woman who said she would never employ a woman of child-bearing age (i.e. less than 45-50 years old) because her business couldn’t afford the maternity pay. Apparently this was a legal approach as long as positions weren’t advertised and she just recruited individuals she wanted to employ, basically headhunting everyone.

  2. Well, as an employer (although not of many!) we’d find it unpleasant to hire a smoker – in that none of us like the smell of tobacco smoke, and would find it unpleasant to work alongside someone in such an environment (especially if pair programming etc).

    Although we’ve never stated it in an advert, and thankfully haven’t yet had an applicant apply who is a smoker (that we could tell), I suspect we would choose to hire a non-smoker over a smoker, on the grounds that the non-smoker would fit in better.

    The micro-breaks thing doesn’t bother me too much – as we all do this (perhaps non-smokers read digg/slashdot/bbc news more?).

    To me – a smoker is someone who smokes regularly – i.e. during the working day. If they smoke cigars/weed/tobacco outside of work, I wouldn’t care, as the smell wouldn’t enter the office.

    Finally, if we did hire a smoker, I’d strongly consider paying for all their nicotine replacement crap.


  3. Okay. I am a smoker and I don’t smoke while I am at work for the reason of, people dont want to smell the smoke. But even so, if I were to smoke at work, id spray myself with deodrant to help get rid of the smell. so far I have had free jobs and never actually smoked at any of them.

    But an interview I had earlier today revealed I couldnt be hired because I was a smoker even though the guy couldnt smell smoke on me at all…

    This shouldnt be right. More and more people are starting to smoke these days and employers that do not higher smokers are going to start finding it hard…

  4. I don’t see how it’s any of the employer’s business whatsoever if a job candidate smokes or not, unless there is good reason to believe that it will impact his job (unlikely) or he smokes so much during the day that he will require constant breaks and/or a nasty odour around him.

    Not hiring purely on the grounds that you smoke tobacco in your spare time is discrimination in the most fundamental way.

  5. I researched into on a few other sites, and apparently it is because of the “foul” oddours:S as Tomalak says though, if there is a valid reason it is understandable, such as working around cerain chemicals for example… as for it been none of the employers business that is correct, what the hell does it matter to them… but according to a survey a potential employer showed me, alot more employers will not employ a smoker due to the “health risks” pretty much saying that us smokers are a walking cancer, but infact in most cases this is not true…. if you stop smoking at work, then you might aswell stop turning the heating on, or using electric, or tell people to walk to work, because all these things throw way more crap into the air every year than us smokers do…

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