Employers must be proactive on anti-smoking policies

Small
and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should put anti-smoking policies in place
now, or face a flood of compensation claims from employees past and present,
according to a legal expert.

Liz
Bunting, legal adviser at Associa Health & Safety Service, said SMEs should
not wait for a Government ban before introducing controls on smoking in the
workplace.

Employers
must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and
welfare at work of all their staff under section 2 of the Health and Safety at
Work Act 1974.

This
means that if a risk can be demonstrated from working in a smoky environment,
the employer must take action, Bunting said.

“Equally
risky for an employer is introducing a complete ban on smoking overnight, as
this action could infringe employment rights,” she said. “Employers should
always consult their employees before introducing a policy and give plenty of
notice before it comes into force.”

Associa
has produced a five-point guide to smoking at work:

1.
Tell staff about it – employers should take time to develop their smoking
policy and give plenty of prior notice of its introduction. A minimum period of
three months’ notice is recommended. Imposing a sudden smoking ban could
infringe employment rights.

2.
Consult on it – do not introduce a policy too quickly or without appropriate
consultation with all staff. Employers should consult their employees and their
representatives on the appropriate smoking policy to suit the particular
workplace. Consider a vote on smoking restrictions.

3.
Ban it – consider a complete ban on smoking. A ban may be justified for safety
reasons, for example where there is a risk of fire or explosion. Make sure you
have no-smoking signs prominently placed in designated no-smoking areas.

4.
Police it – introduce a specific policy on smoking in the workplace. It should
give priority to the needs of non-smokers who do not wish to breathe cigarette
smoke. This policy should be written down and easily available for staff.

5.
Enforce it – staff should be made aware of the details of the policy and what
will happen to those who do not abide by it. Any smoking policy should be made
part of all employee contracts or terms and conditions of employment, so that
breaches of the policy can be subject to normal disciplinary and grievance
procedures.

By Michael Millar

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