Smoking in the home: a guide for PAs and Employers

Smoking or vaping is a health, safety and wellbeing issue for Personal Assistants, the people they assist, and their employers. Sometimes the legal employer is the person being assisted and sometimes it is someone else acting on their behalf.

Either a PA or the person they are assisting may be a smoker, and this could affect the health and wellbeing of other people, including other PAs.

This article sets out key considerations that both PAs and their employers need to be aware of when it comes to the issue of smoking in a person’s home environment.

If the PA employer/ person being supported is a smoker

Whilst anyone coming into the home of a smoker will need to respect their decision to smoke, people who are legal employers have responsibilities towards their employees when it comes to their health and safety.

If an employer asks someone (such as a Personal Assistant) to carry out work within a home environment, they have a general responsibility for them under civil law.

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

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

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

In these cases, they may have responsibilities under the law.

Under the law, a PA employer needs to consider their PAs’ and their own safety. 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.

Considering risk around smoking

The employer needs to undertake a risk assessment, to establish how much of a risk smoking in the home may have on their PAs and how they will mitigate any risks. 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 (or person being supported) to smoke in their own home.

When doing a risk assessment, the employer may want to focus on the effects of smoke on those most at risk, such as:

  • PAs with respiratory complaints
  • PAs who may be pregnant
  • PAs subjected to the greatest level of exposure.

To mitigate any risks, the employer may consider things like:

  • Deciding not to smoke/ vape when PAs are present
  • Warning PAs before lighting a cigarette/ vaping, so they can leave the room
  • Opening doors and/ or windows when smoking/ vaping
  • Putting on an extractor fan when smoking/ vaping
  • Smoking/ vaping next to an open door or window
  • Designating certain parts of the house as a smoking area, eg. the kitchen.

If a PA is a smoker

If the employer/ person being supported doesn’t want anyone smoking in their home, they have the right to expect a smoke free home environment. If a Personal Assistant is a smoker, their employer should discuss with them the best way for them to manage this at work. They could consider:

  • Making time for the PA to take smoking breaks while they are working
  • Agreeing where the PA is allowed to smoke/ vape eg. outside the house only, or next to an open door/ window.

If an employer employs more than one PA, they need to consider the effect of one PA smoking on the other PAs too.  They should include this when they do a risk assessment.

Next steps

Take a look at the Resources below for more information.

Part of
Last Updated
11 June 2024
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.