It turns out your health isn’t the only thing being harmed by your smoking habit. Finding employment could also be an issue for smokers, an employment expert says.
A recent job search turned up 15 New Zealand organisations with job ads that reference “nonsmokers only” or “non-smokers preferred.” They include jobs in the trades industry, transport and logistics, community services, and education sector.
Is refusing to hire a smoker considered discrimination?
Although refusing to hire a smoker may not be considered fair or reasonable, it is not unlawful.
According to Employsure’s senior employment relations expert, Vanessa Bainbridge, there is no one single law that deals solely with job advertisements and what can and cannot be referenced in them.
“New Zealand employers can advertise for non-smokers only, without violating the Human Rights Act,” she says.
Human Rights laws prevent discrimination on the basis of race, age, sexual orientation or preference, political opinion, marital status, family and carer’s responsibilities as well as things like disability and impairment.
“Smoking doesn’t explicitly fall into one of these categories as unlawful discrimination — so while the job advert might seem to be discriminating against smokers, it’s likely that, under the law, it actually isn’t,” Vanessa says.
Can employers ban smoking in the workplace?
Banning smoking in workplaces like bars and restaurants is permitted under the Smoke-free Environments Act. This Act is intended to protect non-smokers from being affected by smoking. “Most workplaces are alcohol-free so, it is common for employers to expect the same standard for a smoke-free workplace.”
Further, “it’s a workplace safety issue,” she says. Since 2002, second-hand smoke has been recognised as a significant workplace hazard, shifting the focus from bar or café patrons’ rights to employers’ responsibility to provide a healthy safe workplace for workers.
For now, employers wishing to advertise ‘non-smokers only’ are free to do so, but should seek expert advice when hiring or recruiting new staff.
“It’s important to use the right language in job ads and ensure workplace policies don’t discriminate.”