Smoking at work: what is allowed and what is not?

A heavy smoker might be tempted to light a cigarette in the company car or outside on the company premises. However, the Smoking Ban Act of 22 December 2009 has firmly called a halt to this indulgence.

Right to smoke-free workplaces

The basic principle of the Smoking Ban Act is that every worker has the right to have access
to workplaces and social amenities that are free of tobacco smoke. This means that it is,
therefore, prohibited to smoke in these areas. The term workplace is interpreted very broadly
in this context. It concerns any open or closed workplace where work is carried out, inside or
outside the company: factory hall, offices, meeting rooms, warehouses, garages… and
therefore also in lorries and company cars.

Interpreting smoke-free areas broadly

Smoking is also prohibited in any enclosed or open area of a company which is not
necessarily intended for work but to which workers have access in the course of their work,
such as stairs, lifts, corridors and the entrance hall. The smoking ban in social amenities
applies to areas, such as sanitary facilities, canteens, cafeterias and first aid rooms.

Where is smoking allowed?

This is only permitted in the open air, and by law, hotel rooms and private residences where
work is carried out are excluded from the scope of the law. The employer can also set up a
dedicated smoking room for its staff. However, this is not a legal obligation. This smoking
room must be sufficiently ventilated or equipped with a smoke extraction system that
removes the smoke adequately.

Employer obligations

The employer also has a legal obligation to place smoking ban signs in the company.
Moreover, it must remove any items that might suggest that smoking is allowed, such as
ashtrays on tables.

Penalties for offenders

An employee who violates the smoking ban may receive a notice of default or a sanction if
this is provided for in the work regulations. Repeated violations can lead to dismissal for
urgent reasons due to insubordination. In a safety context, such as a chemical company or a
silo, even a one-off offence can lead to a severe sanction, because this reckless smoking
behaviour endangers one’s own safety and that of colleagues.


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