12 February, 2007
Legislation enacted under the Health Act 2006 will ban smoking in most enclosed workplaces and public places in England with effect from 1 July 2007. The ban also extends to work vehicles not used exclusively by one person.
Whether starting from scratch in introducing a ban on smoking in the workplace or updating an existing 'no smoking' policy, employers are advised to begin preparing for the new legislation now in order to achieve a smooth implementation of the policy.
Employers should consult with staff on the best way of introducing the total ban rather than just notifying them that one is being introduced to comply with the law. A negotiated policy is more likely to be acceptable to employees and there may be possibly contentious issues to determine, such as what time is to be allowed for smoking breaks for workers who will have to go outside to smoke and arrangements regarding any resulting litter.
The aims of smoking policies are to protect all staff from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke, to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities, in order to avoid problems arising, and to ensure compliance with the law. The policy should include details of any support that is to be provided by the employer to those who wish to give up smoking, what action will be taken against anyone who does not comply with the ban and the procedures set up to resolve complaints and disputes. Once implemented, the policy should be monitored to ensure that it is working properly. All new employees should be provided with a written copy.
Under the legislation, occupiers of substantially enclosed work premises will have to display prominent 'no smoking' signs (of at least A5 size) at all entrances to the premises and also place signs in company vehicles as appropriate. Employers will be liable to a fixed penalty of £200 (reduced to £150 if paid within 15 days) if they do not have the required signage. If a fixed penalty is not paid the employer could face a fine of up to £1,000 (and a criminal record). The penalty for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent smoking on the premises or in a vehicle will be a fine of up to £2,500.
Employees and visitors will be subject to a fixed penalty of £50 (reduced to £30 if paid within 15 days) if found smoking in the workplace premises. If the fixed penalty is not paid, the offender could face a fine of up to £200, plus a criminal record.
Peter Byrne, Head of Employment Law at Forbes Solicitors can assist you in drawing up a smoking policy in good time to ensure that it is finalised and implemented ready for when the new law takes effect. If you are considering setting up an outside smoking area, take advice to ensure that this does not contravene the law.