From July 1 2007, it is now illegal to smoke in the workplace in England, as part of new government legislation which was passed in the Health Act 2006. The ban applies to all workplaces and public places, public transport, work vehicles, restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes, shopping centres and offices.
It is therefore imperative to know what is expected from businesses, staff, customers and visitors and for businesses to ensure that the new law is complied with. The ban extends to incorporate any public area which is either wholly enclosed or substantially enclosed the latter meaning that places such as sports stadia, outdoor concert venues etc. will also be covered under the new legislation.
It is a required Duty for Employers to take the necessary action as set out by the government for the introduction of the ban. They must display no smoking signs in all premises and within company vehicles and must take reasonable steps to ensure that all of their staff, customers, members, guests and visitors are fully aware that both premises and company vehicles are legally required to be smoke-free and to enforce that should anybody break the law. Any indoor smoking areas which were previously delegated for smoking purposes also need to be removed.
Whilst all of the above is a legal obligation, employers might also look to offer additional supportive strategies by removing all ashtrays, to offer staff training so that their workforce fully comprehends the new law and their responsibilities in relation to it. They might also look to offer support to their staff with regard to helping them to quit smoking.
There are strict rules with regard to the types of signs that must be displayed. Signs must be at least the same size as an A5 sheet of paper (210mm x 148mm) and they must be displayed in a prominent position at every public entrance to the premises. The sign must also feature the international no-smoking symbol which is a graphic depiction of a single burning cigarette enclosed within a red circle of a minimum of 70mm in diameter with a red bar across it. The sign must contain the following exact words which can be easily read, No smoking. It is against the law to smoke on these premises. Smaller signs are available for vehicles and, for example, in the case of smaller shops within a larger shopping complex, although in these cases, the circle-shaped no-smoking symbol must still have a diameter of at least 70mm.
All of the above are required by law under the new legislation but there are other measures which can be taken to develop a smoke-free policy.
Developing a Smoke-Free Policy
It can be highly beneficial to produce a written policy document which you can give to your employees outlining the changes to the workplace and how the new legislation affects the staff.
It should be simple, concise and easy to understand with no room for misinterpretation and should be issued to all members of staff and to future new employees. It should draw reference to the legislation and explain the reasons for the policy, acknowledging the right of employees to work in a Smoke-free Environment which applies to workers at all levels as well as to customers and any visitors. It should stipulate which areas are non-smoking and, if you are going to permit smokers to smoke within a specified area outdoors, you should also state exactly where that is. On this point, there is no obligation to provide smokers with any area outside in which they can smoke should you choose not to nor do you need to provide any kind of smoking shelter or facility for this purpose. The document might include ways in which the company is prepared to assist smokers in giving up smoking although, once again they do not have to provide that service. Furthermore, the policy should state how the company will deal with any failure to comply with the new legislation.
How is the Legislation Going to be Enforced?
Local councils are responsible for enforcing the law in England working closely with businesses to enable companies and their staff to understand what they need to do in order to comply with the law. There are enforcement officers visiting business premises to ensure compliance and although they will be instructed to enforce the law using the raising of awareness and educational strategies instead of there being a confrontational approach in the first instance, failure to comply after compliance has been encouraged will result in further action being taken.
The Health Act of 2006 states the penalties for breaching the law if efforts to encourage compliance have failed. They are:
- Smoking in a smoke-free premises or vehicle: a fixed penalty notice of £50 (discounted to £30 if paid within 15 days from the issue of a notice) or a fine by a court not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale (up to £200)
- Failure to display no smoking signs in smoke-free premises and vehicles as required by the new law: a fixed penalty notice of £200 (discounted to £150 if paid within 15 days from the issue of a notice) or a fine by the court not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (up to £1000)
- Failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free premises or vehicle: a fine by a court not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale (up to £2500)
England is the last country in the UK to introduce this legislation following similar laws which have already been introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For further information, you should refer to the Health Act 2006 and the Smoke Free England website provides lots of other useful information about the legislation and how it might affect you.