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Copenhagen suburb bans smoking during even unpaid lunch breaks

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Copenhagen suburb bans smoking during even unpaid lunch breaks
Ishøj municipality is bringing in a tough new workplace smoking policy. Photo: Linda Kastrup / Ritzau Scanpix
10:57 CEST+02:00
A municipality in Copenhagen has banned all employees from smoking during working hours -- even if they are on an unpaid lunch break, in their own clothes and off council property.
From August 1, Ishøj Municipality will impose Denmark's strictest employee smoking ban, with any council employee discovered smoking during work hours threatened with "employment consequences". 
 
"We want to be a smoke-free municipality, and when we had to decide how to do it, it was the position of the City Council that there should be no exceptions" the suburb's Social Democrat mayor Ole Bjørstorp told the broadcaster TV2
 
"It was a very clear decision. Ishøj Municipality must be smoke-free, and this applies throughout the working day, from the morning until the afternoon." 
 
Thomas Enghausen, the Vice President of the FOA union, told The Local that the union planned to file a case against the municipality if any of its members are penalised for smoking during an unpaid lunch break. 
 
"This has gone too far. The Mayor can't dictate what the employees are doing in their self-paid lunch break," he told The Local. "This is free time. You have 30 minutes of free time during your working day." 
 
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Enghausen said that perhaps 200 of his union's members in Ishøj were not paid for their lunch break, most of them cleaners, janitors or in other technical positions, which he believed meant the municipality could not impose such a ban on them. 
 
"They've gone way too far according to the collective agreements right now," he said. 
 
Henrik Wolsing Jensen, a janitor at Ishøj school and local union representative, told TV2 that he would fight the ban.
 
"If the municipality wants to be in control of what I do during my lunch break, then they can just pay me for it," he said. "If I pay for my break, then it's my own time." 
 
The municipalities of Nordfyn, Mariagerfjord and Viborg are also imposing smoking bans on their employees from August 1, but none extends into employees' free time. 
 
 
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