COMPANIES are permitted under current legislation to allow their workforce to take a “cigarette break” away from their desks, or station, without incurring a penalty, central government confirmed yesterday. Replying to a parliamentary question from the Opposition, the ruling Socialist government confirmed that “given a company is free to run its business in the way it chooses, it is at liberty to allow its employees to go to points either in or out of the place of employment, to smoke a cigarette where it does not harmfully affect other members of staff.” The government signalled that companies have to respect “in any event”, breaks that have historically been established for workers during the course of the day. It also, however, raised a note of caution by pointing out that there may be cases where it is not possible for smokers to suddenly abandon their work to have a cigarette, and that such breaks, where they do exist, should be carefully controlled as non-smokers could claim they also should have the equivalent of the smokers' free time to do as they pleased. In its official response under the Anti-smoking Law which came into national effect on 1 January this year, the government laid the responsibility of monitoring compliance fairly and squarely on the heads of industry.
It stated that if workers infringed the new laws whilst at work, it is the employer who is designated with the task of cracking down on any violation. Consequently, any employee who ignores notices of smoking being prohibited, will face the full weight of the law through its imposition by the company, acting for and on behalf of the government. The government considered that from a practical standpoint, it is the company, as the nearest point of control, who should negotiate with its employees on how the Anti-Smoking law should be observed. They should also monitor how the law's effects reflect on work performance.
The government finalised its response to the Opposition by making it clear that people should not be penalised simply because they smoke, as long as they do it at agreed times and places.