Weekly dilemma: Smoking ban in the workplace

The office complex where I work has a bar and lounge area where staff can relax and socialise. The 1 July 2007 smoking ban has sparked a rumour that the building’s landlord will turn this area into a private members club to overcome the ban. Would staff still be entitled to smoke in this part of the building, and can the landlord legally do this?

When the smoking ban was first proposed, exemptions for private members clubs and licensed premises not serving food were considered. This has caused a degree of confusion about establishments where smoking will and will not be permitted, and led to numerous suggestions about legal loopholes that can be exploited in favour of smokers.

The reality is, under the Smoke-free Regulations 2007, virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces in England will become smoke-free. The regulations form part of the Health Act 2006, which is designed to protect the overwhelming majority of the public from the harmful effects of inhaling second-hand smoke. Private members clubs must comply with the regulations and implement no-smoking policies.

The only smoke-free exemptions will be for premises that are used as accommodation for guests and clubs members, designated bedrooms in residential accommodation (hospitals, care homes, etc), specified rooms in research and testing facilities, and specialist tobacconist shops.

The regulations clearly define ‘enclosed’ and ‘substantially enclosed’, and include conditions for ceilings/roofs, ventilation systems, doors, windows and signage. Your landlord would have to invest a great deal to meet the stringent guidelines, and even then, it is unlikely that smoking status would be awarded, as the building’s main function is as a workplace, and not a hotel.

Essentially, from 1 July, smoking will only be permitted in designated outdoor areas that comply with the ‘enclosed’ and ‘substantially enclosed’ area criteria. People who ignore the regulations could be fined up to £2,500.

By Neil Gouldson, head of employment law, Lewis Hymanson Small


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