Alerts and Updates

Non-Smoking Legislation Implications for All Employers in the UK

June 13, 2007

Despite wide-scale publicity in the UK about the proposed smoking ban due to come into force on 1 July 2007, a survey carried out by the Department of Health indicated that the majority of people were unaware that the ban was due to come into force.

This is an exceedingly worrying state of affairs, particularly for employers, given that there are criminal sanctions for non-compliance.

As of 6 a.m., 1 July 2007, it will be against the law to allow smoking in virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces. The following are some of the law's highlights.

  • Failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free place will carry a £2,000 fine.
  • Businesses that fail to display non-smoking signs will be fined £200.
  • There will be minimum requirements with regard to design and size of non-smoking signs that employers and businesses are obliged to exhibit at the entrance to smoke-free premises, and it is mandatory for the signs to state "No smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises".
  • In addition, the no smoking signs must also be displayed in all smoke-free vehicles, which an employer or business may supply to its employees.

All employers should draft smoke-free policies and procedures. The benefits of having a written policy are that it can: (i) demonstrate compliance with the smoking ban; and (ii) enable the employer to keep records of any smoking incidents.

Having a written policy will also enable employers to deal with issues such as smoking breaks and possible support for employees to give up smoking, and provide evidence that employers have notified employees that breach of the smoking ban is contrary to the employers' statutory obligation to prevent smoking and is likely to be a disciplinary offence.

It should be noted that the employer is not obliged to offer assistance to staff who want to quit smoking; however, from a practical point of view it may be in the employer's interest to provide such support as attendance at non-smoking classes, counselling or any other supportive action to assist in quitting smoking. A non-smoking policy could lead to higher productivity levels (as employees take fewer breaks), substantially lower absence rates from reduced sickness and early retirements due to ill health, and reduced annual healthcare costs and healthcare insurance for smokers.

A comprehensive smoking policy should ensure that the consequences of not complying with the policy are explained and include:

  • Details as to who will be responsible for implementing and maintaining the policy;
  • Provide details for monitoring and reviewing the policy;
  • Outline procedures for resolving any complaints or disputes which may arise;
  • And to the extent that the employer does allow smoke breaks, specify whether these are allowed for those who wish to smoke outside and suggested time limits.

For Further Information

If you have any questions about this Alert or would like further advice or assistance with drafting and implementing a non-smoking policy, please contact Tola Ogundimu or any of the other attorneys in the firm's Employment Law and Management Labor Relations Practice Group.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.