Smoking in a PA Employer’s Home

Issues to consider for both PA Employers and PAs

Smoking is a health, safety and wellbeing issue for both PA Employers and Personal Assistants (PAs). Both PAs and employers may face situations where they are smokers and this could affect the health and wellbeing of other people. This article sets out key information and considerations that both PAs and their employers need to be aware of when regarding the issue of smoking in a person’s home environment.

PA employers who smoke

You might have been a smoker for many years and continue to smoke regularly. Whilst anyone coming into your home will need to respect your decision to continue smoking, if they are there to provide you with further support, your smoking may affect their ability to do this.

Things to consider if you are a PA employer and also a smoker

  • The responsibility you have to the PAs you employ
  • The responsibility you have to any other professionals working in your home

PA employer Health and Safety responsibilities

When you ask people to carry out work within your own home you will have a general responsibility for them under civil law.

If you live in a private domestic household and you employ a PA to carry out solely domestic activities (for example, cleaning, gardening or general personal care), it is unlikely that you will have any responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).

However, if you employ a PA to carry out tasks that go beyond what may be considered to be ordinary domestic service, for example:

  • Hoisting and moving and assisting
  • Dealing with challenging behaviour
  • Using complex medical equipment

In these cases, you may have responsibilities under the HSWA.

Responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA)

Under HSWA, a PA employer would need to consider their PAs’ and their own safety. For example, there may be a need for suitable training and equipment for ‘higher risk’ activities.

PA employers need to protect, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees, including any risks that arise from exposure to smoke.

Advice for PA employers and PAs where PAs are exposed to second-hand smoke

The employer needs to undertake a risk assessment, focusing on the specific issue of second-hand smoke. Whilst it is for the employer to decide how they tackle the problem of second-hand smoke, this needs to be based on the findings of their risk assessment.

It is important to look for sensible, practical solutions and compromises that protect the wellbeing of PAs as well as respecting the rights of the employer to smoke in their own home.

The risk assessment

Ensure exposure to second-hand smoke is considered as part of the workplace risk assessment. Prioritise those most at risk, such as:

  • People with respiratory complaints
  • Those people subjected to the greatest level of exposure

Evaluate whether:

  • Smokers are happy to stop smoking when PAs are present
  • Whether the PA employer will respond to requests from their PA to stop smoking

Also examine the possibilities of:

  • PAs asking smokers to warn them before lighting-up, so they may leave the room
  • Opening doors and / or windows
  • Making use of any extractor fans
  • Whether it’s possible to smoke next to an open door or window
  • Whether designating smoking areas could be identified, such as in the kitchen

Where a PA is a smoker

If a PA employer doesn’t want anyone smoking in their home, they have the right to expect a smoke free home environment. If as an employer you find that your PAs are smokers, you can consider a number of options:

  • Have a discussion with your PA(s) about their smoking, is this something occasional or do they have a high level of cigarette use?
  • Does your PA experience any cravings for smoking and does this affect them in any way?
  • Would your PA like the opportunity for a smoking break if it was possible to offer this? Can you offer a break in a place where the smoke doesn’t affect you as the employer or anyone else?

Alternatives to smoking

For some people, they are trying to reduce or give up their smoking, or using alternative devices, such as vapes. For some people, vaping is a more attractive option than smoking and be part of a planned approach to change their smoking habits.

PA employers may treat vaping in the same way as the smoking of cigarettes, or see this in a different way. The PA employer can still ask their PA to smoke in a designated place or at designated times, if they would like to take vaping into account when a PA is providing the support they need.

Next steps

Take a look at the resources below for more information.

Part of
Last Updated
04 May 2023
First Published
17 April 2023
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Please note that the information contained in this Handbook is provided for guidance purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by Self Directed Support Scotland or any other contributing party.

The information does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal and professional advice from a lawyer about employment law matters, or an accountant/ tax specialist about taxation matters, and from HMRC and your insurers. You should not rely solely on the information in this Handbook. Support organisations listed in this Handbook can help you find appropriate sources of advice.