What obligations does an employer have where, as part of their duties, staff members visit clients who smoke in their homes?
In general, private premises are not covered by the Health Act 2006 and the related smoke-free regulations, except for parts of dwellings used solely as a place of work by more than one person. This excludes any work that is undertaken solely to: provide personal care for a person living in the dwelling; assist with the domestic work of the household in the dwelling; maintain the structure or fabric of the dwelling; or install, maintain or remove any service provided to the dwelling for the benefit of persons living in it.
Therefore, employees visiting clients in their homes to carry out these functions are not covered by the provisions of the Health Act 2006 and employers do not have any statutory obligations in this regard. However, it is advisable for employers to take steps to try to ensure that, as far as is reasonably practicable, employees are protected from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke when visiting clients in their homes, to comply with the general duty of care under health and safety legislation. The right of individuals to smoke in their own homes cannot be restricted, but employers may consider taking steps to try to reduce employees' exposure. For example, employers could: ask clients to cooperate by limiting smoking and opening windows; arrange visits so that exposure is not prolonged; and identify staff members who either have a pre-existing condition that is made worse by exposure to tobacco smoke (eg asthma), or face extra risks (eg pregnant employees). Employers might also consider adding smoke-free conditions into any service agreements with clients.