Monday, December 9, 2013

Scent Sensitivity

Scent Sensitivity

Scents in the workplace may affect employees' well-being. This is most common with the scents of shampoos and conditioners, perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, hairsprays, air fresheners, and cleaning agents. Where an employee has sensitivity to scents, exposure to them may result in a number of different symptoms, including headaches, shortness of breath, skin irritation, nausea, or fatigue. These environmental and multiple chemical sensitivities are considered to be disabilities and, as a result, employees may require workplace accommodation.

Employers that receive a complaint from an employee about scents in the workplace may want to meet with the employee to address the problem. This should be done in private and kept confidential. As the employer, you may want to request additional information from the employee with respect to his/her restrictions and it is within your rights to ask for medical documentation in support of these restrictions.

You may have to accommodate the employee even if the employee has not yet provided medical support for his/her restrictions.

Consider developing a scent-free policy for you workplace and educate all your employees about it. Make sure all employees know why the policy is needed and the health effects of scents. This training could be done by e-mail, newsletter or presentation. Address concerns openly and honestly. Stress the fact that the policy is being put into effect because of a medical condition not because of a dislike of a certain scent.

With tact and sensitivity, most human rights complaints by employees with scent sensitivity can be avoided.

Article by Jean Ridout, Operations Manager, Beyond Rewards
Beyond Rewards is a preeminent human resources, risk management, safety, health and training consulting firm based in Guelph, Ontario.  Contact Jean at

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