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No Smoke Without Fire!

Posted on: 23 January 2007
Posted by: Oliver McCann
Service area: Employment

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The Health Act 2006 makes provision for the introduction of legislation restricting smoking in the work place and public places. The Smoke free Regulations are expected to come into force on the 1st July 2007 and are presently still in draft format. Whether they actually give impetus to New Year resolutions to quit smoking remains to be seen!

The suggested intention behind the regulations is to protect those who suffer from "second-hand smoke" or, to you and me, passive smoking!

According to statistics, smoking kills around 106,000 people a year of which around 700 are as a result of passive smoking. Apparently 2 million people in great Britain still work in workplaces where smoking is allowed throughout and another 10 million in places where smoking is allowed somewhere on the premises.

So whilst the Government may dress up the purpose of the Regulations as protecting those subject to passive smoking the statistics suggest this is more to do with cutting down the opportunities of individuals to smoke (perhaps even assisting those with the desire to quit entirely) and thereby reducing the burden on the NHS.

Politics to one side, you as Employers now have to put the wheels in motion to establish a "smoke free workplace". So what do the regulations say?

  • Smoking will not be permitted in any workplace which is "enclosed" or "substantially enclosed"

  • "enclosed" or "substantially enclosed" means premises that have a ceiling or walls at least half the way around, including doors and windows

  • Company vehicles must be smoke free (unless the employee has the luxury of a convertible) except where it is only ever to be used by one person with no passengers

  • "No Smoking" signs must be displayed (in vehicles as well) which meet minimum requirements

  • a breach of the Regulations will constitute a criminal offence - punishment a fine

  • there are some exemptions (with strict restrictions) - mainly to those work places which is also a person's home eg Residential Homes, hospices

Food for thought out go the "smoking rooms" and in come designated smoking areas outside - that in itself poses a few questions:-

  • How will this be monitored and controlled?

  • Do you have a signing in and out procedure to cover the fact that people have left the building?

  • Is the designated area safe?

  • Will outside smoking areas have an adverse impact on your corporate image?

And what about Company Cars? Some Employees' will have the benefit of a Company car for personal use - does this now mean an employee can no longer smoke in the car even outside working hours? It is likely you will have to review your Company Car policy!

Perhaps an outright ban is the way forward? A victory to those who don't smoke and who feel they have been discriminated against as they don't get the "smoke breaks" which, invariably, are an addition to the normal rest breaks. On the other hand it is a clear retraction of a benefit which smoking employees may have enjoyed for many years and a clear lack of understanding that some employees may have a serious addiction which simply cannot be kicked over night.

The TUC is urging Employers to act now and to embark upon a period of consultation with Unions and Employee representatives to put together a workable but acceptable policy. The TUC suggest that the aim of the policy should be:

  1. To protect all staff from the harmful effects of smoking

  2. To ensure that all parties (employers, smokers and non-smokers) have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities

  3. To ensure compliance with the law

Make no mistake - this is a golden opportunity to address those niggling issues over smoke breaks (frequency and length) and finally set out a clear policy to be adhered to.

Action Plan

  • Consider whether you already comply with law or need to make changes

  • Set up a Task Group - made up of the Union, non smokers and smokers, Human Resources and Senior Management

  • Consult the Workforce - The TUC recommends sending a questionnaire to the workforce to establish the number of smokers and ex smokers, the number who wish to give up, attitudes to smoking in the organisation and opinions on smoke breaks and outside smoking

  • Armed with the information develop a Policy together with a proposed timetable for implementation

  • Review other Company policies such as the Company Car Policy, the disciplinary procedure and the Health and Safety policy

  • Consider offering assistance to those who wish to give up smoking

  • Monitor and Evaluate the policy once implemented

If you require any advice or assistance in developing or implementing your "Smoke Free Policy" please feel free to contact Oliver McCann.

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