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HR Tip - Banning smoking at work

1st Oct 2003
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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Q: Are we entitled to introduce a smoking ban and, if so, how? Must we provide a smoking room or allow people to leave the premises for a smoke? Most of our employees are non-smokers, but one smoker has 15 years' service and claims that he has established a right to smoke at work.

A: You are entitled to impose a smoking ban and indeed are recommended to do so in order to protect your employees from the ill effects of passive smoking. If you fail to do that you will be in breach of Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

There is no obligation to provide alternative arrangements. A smoking room may sound a good idea but it is unlikely that it will contain all the smoke that is generated, the smell is certainly likely to pervade adjacent rooms and, if it is connected to an air conditioning or heating system, harmful fumes will still be distributed around the premises. In fairness to everyone, if you allow people to leave the premises during working hours for a smoke, you should either allow non-smokers to do the same for whatever purpose, or require smokers to make up the lost time.

Since you are changing employment arrangements for a sound, health-related reason, nobody can claim to have established a right to smoke.

Explain to everyone what you intend to do and why. Give them, say, a month's warning before introducing the ban to give smokers time to adjust. Also give them a reasonable degree of support by, for example, referring them to their GP or a smoking clinic or giving them a self-help audio tape. When the time comes, apply the ban strictly and consistently. Counselling and informal warnings should suffice, but if employees persist in smoking you will be justified in giving formal warnings and, if necessary, dismissing.

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By rcunnington
04th Jun 2008 12:15

The organisation I work for (local council) have introduced a policy whereby employees are not allowed to smoke within 50 metres of any council building. This also includes on the journey to and from work, which I suspect is legally dubious.

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By AnonymousUser
07th Oct 2003 20:26

Some employers including Councils have gone as far as extending smokers hours when introducing a ban to make up for the trips outside for a smoke break.

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