No Ifs, No Butts

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union v Glencore Mt Owen Pty Ltd [2015] FWC 7752 (17 November 2015)

A union has unsuccessfully tried to prevent an employer from banning smoking in the workplace. In an attempt to turn back the tide on this issue, the CFMEU has failed to overturn the smoking ban.

The employer had decided to introduce the ban, consistent with its approach in other work sites it operated, and followed a considered, gradual approach. It even offered to contribute up to $300 per employee for the purchase of various ‘quit aids’, as well as giving the employees plenty of notice of the ban taking effect.

Not to be dissuaded however, the CFMEU waded in to a dispute process alleging that the ban was not a lawful direction. And as such, the employees were not obliged to observe the ban. This was despite no employee complaining to management, nor seeking any assistance, nor requesting permission to leave the site to actually go and have a smoke.

The Fair Work Commission was unimpressed and found that the ban was a lawful exercise of management prerogative. Further, there were valid reasons to support the ban independent of any policy, namely reduced fire hazards and obvious health benefits to both the smokers (who would obviously smoke less) and their colleagues (who avoided passive smoking).

The decision supports employers’ rights to set the rules of the workplace.