Employment law on Smoking ban
Businesses in Yorkshire should start clearing the air at work now to ensure they comply with next years ban on smoking in enclosed public places, a top lawyer has warned.
Matthew Brain, an employment law expert at Irwin Mitchell, based at the firms West Yorkshire offices in Queen Street, Leeds, gave the warning in advance of World Lung Cancer Day, on November 17 and during National Lung Cancer Month.
He believes up to half of businesses in Yorkshire still allow staff to smoke in the workplace.
Mr Brain said: "Currently there's no obligation on employers to accommodate smoking within the premises. However, some choose to provide their employees with a designated room, to comply with legislation insisting any smoking on their premises takes place in an enclosed space.
"The new law, due to come into force in the summer, is set to ban lighting up in company vehicles and designated smoking rooms. Some companies are looking to replace the latter with outdoor shelters."
New employment laws
Mr Brain said: "With the new laws coming into effect, employers who have not already done so, should consider a gradual fade out of smoking on their premises and begin deciding what compliant alternative arrangements, if any, to put in place now."
He suggested one way to tackle the issue effectively was to implement a no-smoking policy and set-up a working group, who would consult the staff before producing a policy document.
Mr Brain said: "An assessment can be made of the way the company addresses smoking at work now, the nature of the restrictions already in place, the number of smokers and how they will adapt.
"Employees should be provided with details of the proposed new policy, including the reasons behind it and the legal requirements covering smoking.
"The smoking system implemented should be included in general company literature and incorporated into induction processes. Employers could also consider helping employees quit smoking, providing contact details or running courses where advice and support is provided by health experts."
Employment law expert
Mr Brain said: "Establishing strategies such as these, before the new legalisation came into effect, would give employers a means of controlling conflicts arising from smoking and help attract new staff, increasingly expecting no-smoking environments.
"Research suggests smoking in workplaces causes over 20 premature deaths every year across Yorkshire and 600 in the UK as a whole.
"Even without the new legislation, the Employment Rights Act 1996 entitles non-smokers to claim smoking at work by colleagues has caused them distress or forced them to leave their job. In the case of the latter, people can claim constructive dismissal if their employer failed to address their concerns."
Any companies concerned about setting up or maintaining a smoking at work policy can contact Irwin Mitchell on 0370 1500 100.