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
- 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.
Take a look at the resources below for more information.