Smoking in the Workplace

Article

02 August, 2006

If you really cannot survive the day without resorting to a cigarette, the time is fast approaching when it could cost you £50 for the pleasure. The draft smoke-free (general provisions) regulations have been published for consultation. They have been circulated by the Department of Health and comments should be received by 9th October 2006.

The preliminary proposals are highlighted below.

  • All work premises are to be "smoke free" if they are enclosed or substantially enclosed. A definition is given to include premises with a ceiling unless more than 50% of the wall area is open to the outside.
  • All employers must display a prominent "No Smoking" sign. If the sign is displayed it is against the law to smoke in these premises except in a designated room.
  • Company cars are deemed to be entirely non-smoking if they might be used by more than one person, unless it is a convertible car and the roof is open.
  • There is an exemption for bedrooms in residential accommodation.
  • There is no exemption allowing employers to have designated "smoking rooms".
  • An employer who fails to display a prominent "No Smoking" sign is subject to a fixed penalty of £200, which will be discounted to £150 if paid within 15 days. If unpaid, or the fixed penalty notice is challenged, a fine of up to £1000 may be issued.
  • An employee, or visitor, who is caught smoking is subject to a fixed penalty of £50, which will be discounted to £30 if paid within 15 days. If unpaid, or the fixed penalty notice is challenged, a fine of up to £200 may be imposed.
  • An employer who fails to take reasonable steps to prevent smoking (and displaying the "No Smoking" sign is not enough) is liable to a fine of up to £2500. There is no fixed penalty alternative.

In the circumstances employers should be aware of their impending responsibilities and ensure that the duties and obligations are clearly communicated to their staff. It seems inevitable that these regulations will come into effect in 2007 so it is better to be prepared.

Peter Byrne is Head of the Employment Law Department,

Tel: 01254 222399 or email Peter Byrne

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