UK: Small Firms Warned Smoking Ban ‘Looming Large’

Last Updated: 11 January 2007

Small firms in England and Wales are being urged to review their workplace smoking policies amid concerns that business owners are failing to understand the detail of this year’s smoking ban.

The law firm Mace & Jones said it is critical businesses start preparing now for the smoking ban which is due to come into force on April 2 and July 1 in Wales and England respectively. Research by Croner found that nearly one in four employers thinks they are already compliant with the smoking ban when they are not. Confusion centres on the provision of a smoking room within the workplace which will be outlawed under the ban. Croner’s study found that 24 per cent of businesses wrongly thought a smoking room was allowed.

Mace & Jones head of employment law Martin Edwards said employers should be in no doubt about the tough line the Government will take on enforcing the ban.

"The smoking ban is looming large,’ he said. "And already the laws on public smoking, while not yet enforcing a complete ban, are getting tighter. It is crucial that employers are aware of their rights and the rights of their staff when it comes to introducing or changing a policy on smoking at work. Getting it wrong could see employers winding up in costly and time consuming employment tribunals."

Mr Edwards said employers who breach the regulations could face fines for either allowing people to smoke or failing to display no-smoking signs.

"We recommend that business owners should start to work on a no-smoking policy (see notes to editors) now,’ he said. "It is important employers make sure that they have consulted and communicated the no-smoking message to their staff. A copy of the policy should then be issued to every member of staff, with a breach of policy being deemed as a breach of health and safety and gross misconduct. Moreover rooms should be cleaned up where smoking is currently permitted by getting them professionally cleaned. It is also worth seeking legal advice before setting up alternative smoking areas outside, to check they do not contravene the law."

The ban in England and Wales will cover the majority of public spaces and workplaces, including smoking areas at work and work vehicles. It will not, however, extend outdoors or in private homes. Football ground terraces are a notable exception where smoking will be permitted. Similar bans were introduced in Ireland in March 2004 and Scotland in March 2006.

Smoking Background

Presently there are a number of duties on employers to protect employees from the effects of smoking, which employers must turn their attention to.

They are as follows:

  1. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. This would, for example, apply where an employee is made to work in a smoking atmosphere, who suffers from a respiratory condition; an employer would be under a duty to manage that risk.
  2. Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 employers have a duty to ensure that non-smokers are not affected by tobacco in rest rooms or rest areas.

Owing to the above obligations, a large number of employers have already taken measures to restrict or ban smoking from the workplace. There remain a significant number of employers though who have not.

Advice for employers:

what points should the smoking policy cover? For example it should: -

  • Give the reason why the policy has been introduced (or amended).
  • Say that it has been introduced following consultation with the workforce and that it complies with the relevant legislation.
  • State what the restriction is and where it is imposed. Consider how it will apply to company vehicles or vehicles owned by employees but used for work.
  • Make it clear that the policy applies to all employees, at every level, and should be enforced accordingly against all levels of employees.
  • Spell out clearly what the consequences are of breaching the policy and state who will be responsible for enforcing it.
  • State how it applies to customers or a visitor to the employer’s premised.
  • It may include a statement of support to employees trying to give up smoking and refer them to a telephone support number.

Smoking Factfile

A British Medical Journal study from 2005 estimated that 11,000 Britons are dying each year from passive smoking.

Over the last 50 years more than six million Britons have died from smoking related diseases.

Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death and disability causing 114,000 deaths each year in the UK.

Fifty percent of all teenagers who are currently smoking will eventually be killed by their habit.

Every 5 minutes some one dies as result of smoking.

A smoker reduces their life expectancy by 11 minutes every time they smoke cigarette.

A 20 a day smoker is losing one day of life for every week of smoking.

Smoking causes more than 80% of all deaths from lung cancer, around 80% of all deaths from bronchitis and emphysema and around 17% of all deaths from heart disease.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Mace & Jones:

Mace & Jones is one of the largest law firms in the North West, with 39 partners and a total of 100 fee earners.

The firm has three offices - in Liverpool, Manchester and Knutsford and has a national as well as a regional reputation in commercial matters including employment, commercial property, construction, corporate work, dispute resolution and insolvency. It also has one of the best private client teams in the region.

Corporate services include business acquisitions and disposals, venture capital deals, management buy-outs and buy-ins, joint ventures and commercial agreements.

The employment team, one of the largest and most experienced in the UK, provides in-depth understanding of UK and European employment law issues.

Commercial property advice covers all aspects of sales and purchases of freehold and leasehold land, as well as handling leases of office buildings and industrial premises, joint ventures, funding projects and development work. The department is particularly well known for its work in the urban regeneration field.

Commercial litigation includes all types of contract dispute, injunction and intellectual property matters.

Insolvency is also a specialism; advice is given on corporate rescue strategies and environmental liabilities.

Breakdown of Work %

Commercial property: 25
Employment: 20
Commercial litigation/insolvency/construction: 15
Company/commercial: 15
PI/private client/family: 25

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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