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With just 4 days to go until the ‘smoke-free’ legislation comes into force on 1 July, employers across the country are facing a number of problems as they try to comply whilst assisting their employees to do the same. Tony Hyams-Parish, Partner and Head of Employment at leading Southeast law firm Rawlison Butler LLP, has put together the following top 5 tips to ensure smoke-free England does not leave bosses or staff in a haze:

1. Decide on the extent of your ban on smoking – do you simply want to comply with the law and allow employees to light up during cigarette breaks outside the front door or in the car park? – or do you want to ban smoking throughout the day except where it is off premises at lunch time?

2. Consult employees before imposing any complete ban, particularly where you have a number of hardened smokers who will find any type of ban difficult.

3. Inform employees what the new law says and put it into a policy.

4. If you are going to discipline employees who breach the policy, say so in your policy.

5. Get rid of the ashtrays and display the correct signs. Have sufficient numbers of them so that everyone can be in no doubt that your premises is smoke free.

And finally, consider encouraging your employees to give up smoking!

The guidelines given to employers are clear but enforcing them may prove more difficult, as Frank O’Brien of Greenshields JCB explains: “At Greenshields JCB Ltd we have accepted that we will have a dual responsibility after 1 July to comply with the Smoke-free workplace laws. As employers, we have adopted a smoke-free workplace policy for some time and are now legally obliged to enforce our policy under penalty of a £2,500 fine. Our policy covers preventing smoking in the workplace and smoking in any vehicle including vehicles owned by employees who might use them on business with a business passenger.

“We have improved the standard of signage on premises and vehicles to comply with the new laws and advised all employees that they will be committing a criminal offence if they smoke in a smoke-free place. All employees have been advised that they must follow our policy and to advise any visitors of the rules should they fail to comply."

As Tony Hyams-Parish, Partner and Head of Employment at leading Southeast law firm Rawlison Butler LLP, explains: “The fact is that changing and implementing a smoking policy takes time in terms of making staff aware of it, and training people to enforce it. We’ve been working with our clients for some time to make the transition to ‘smoke-free’ as easy and smooth as possible, but I’ve no doubt that many employers and employees will get caught out when the ban comes into force.”

“After 1 July it will be an offence to light up in a smoke-free place and if caught an employee could be given a fixed penalty of £50 or a £200 fine. However, more importantly for employers, the fine for failing to prevent smoking can be up to £2,500 for each offence of lighting up. An employer does have a defence if it can show it took reasonable steps to prevent smoking and so it is crucial for employers to adopt clear policies, which are emphasised to all staff and adhered to. As well as considering a no-smoking policy, employers must also put up suitable no-smoking signs in work entrances and shared vehicles, or face a fixed penalty of £200 or a fine of up to £1,000.”

One company that has already made great progress is Swarovski. Cathy Churchman, Head of HR at Swarovski UK & Ireland explains: “We’ve been a no-smoking company since 2005, with all the correct signage and updated policies in place. The majority of our stores are in shopping malls and hence no-smoking premises as well. We’ve been particularly proactive about this as we are a major sponsor of a Breast cancer charity so we try to promote healthy lifestyle. Our field-force all have correct signage within smoke-free vehicles, and we’ve given employees advice on how to quit.”

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has controversially suggested employers give employees paid time off to quit smoking. There are benefits that have been linked to employees giving up smoking, e.g. reduced sickness absence. However, the new law does not oblige an employer to help employees to give up smoking and this guidance is unlikely to be relied upon by any Employment Tribunal.

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For further press information please contact the Rawlison Butler Press Office:

Katie King
Mobile: 07974 161 179
Email: katie@2thefore.biz

Glen Goldsmith
Mobile: 07812 766 338
Email: glen@2thefore.biz

For further information on Rawlison Butler visit www.rawlisonbutler.com

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