Workplace rights: Last gasp for smokers

A complete ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces comes into force in England on 1 July, bringing the law into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

What are the burning issues for employers? The legislation applies to areas that are wholly or 'substantially' enclosed, meaning premises whose walls and ceiling are greater in area than any openings. Designated smoking rooms are therefore no longer permitted, although an outdoor smoking shelter might comply if sufficiently open to the elements. Company vehicles must also be entirely smoke-free if used by more than one person. Employers will have to display prominent no-smoking signs meeting specific requirements. They face a £2,500 maximum fine for failing to prevent smoking. Prudent organisations should consult staff on a smoking policy that complies with the new rules, backed up with appropriate sanctions. One point to cover is whether workers who can currently take smoking breaks will be permitted to do so when the ban is in force. An alternative would be to allow paid time off to attend stop-smoking clinics, as suggested by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) - perhaps for a limited period so as to minimise any resentment among non-smokers.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, e-mail: employment@lewissilkin.com.

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