LAWFUEL – The Legal Issues Newswire – Commentary available from Alan…

LAWFUEL – The Legal Issues Newswire – Commentary available from Alan Chalmers, employment expert at DLA Piper
Time is running out for workplace smokers. The long-anticipated smoking ban comes into force in England on Sunday 1 July. The ban will prohibit smoking in public places. The ban applies not only to pubs, clubs and restaurants but to all workplaces which are enclosed or substantially enclosed. Smoking must not be permitted in company vehicles which are used by more than one person. Similar bans have been in operation in Scotland since March 2006 and in Wales and Northern Ireland since April 2007.

This means an end to designated smoking rooms and to staff smoking in their own offices. It will be illegal to light up even if the solitary smoker is the only person on the premises.

Environmental health officers will have powers to enter smoke-free premises and impose on-the-spot penalty notices on offenders. Individuals caught smoking in public places will be subject to a £50 fine and managers of premises which fail to display no-smoking signs will be subject to £200 fines. The penalty for failing to prevent someone smoking in smoke-free premises will be £2,500.

Alan Chalmers, employment partner at law firm DLA Piper, comments: “Despite widespread publicity concerning the ban, many employers remain unprepared. Employers who fail to prevent smoking on their premises will face fines of up to £2,500. These fines will be imposed personally on anyone who is concerned in the management of the premises. This raises the possibility that the most senior person who happens to be on the premises when the environmental health officers come knocking could face a substantial fine.”

“Faced with the prospect of smokers leaving their desks several times a day to go outside for a smoke, employers may wish to consider banning smoking breaks altogether. There has never been a right to smoke at work and employers are not required to provide facilities for their staff to smoke outside, even if smoking has previously been permitted in the workplace. The smoking ban may lead to an increase in complaints from non-smokers that smokers get extra breaks. If smoking breaks are allowed, employers should have a policy making it clear what is acceptable and what is not”.

For further information, please contact Alan Chalmers, partner in DLA Piper’s Sheffield office on +44 (0)114 283 3259 or Claire Lees at DLA Piper’s press office on +44 (0)20 7796 6176.

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