Smoking ban: are employers really ready?

31 May 2007

With just one month to go before smoking in the majority of workplaces in England becomes a criminal offence, employers still have time to address their policies to ensure that they are fully compliant with the new law. According to lawyers at Bird & Bird, employers who have not prepared for the introduction of the new legislation are at risk of being fined by the relevant enforcement bodies.

Before the 1st of July, employers will need to introduce a number of measures to ensure their workplaces and policies are compliant with the new law. Many firms already have a no smoking policy but employers will have to display the correct no smoking signs and clearly define areas which are considered "substantially enclosed". The legislation prohibits smoking in areas which are "substantially enclosed" such as porches and employers need to make clear to the workforce that they cannot smoke in these places.

For those employers who have not previously operated a no smoking policy in whole or in part, the smoking room will have to be closed and they will have to manage a significant culture change within their organisations.

"A particular risk to employers comes from employees who have been used to smoking in their offices, often senior members of staff who work late" cautions Bird & Bird employment lawyer Jeremy Nixon. "Employers need to know that they are opening themselves up to the risk of being fined if these potential offenders are not managed effectively.

"Employers should also be aware that disgruntled staff may use breaches of the new no smoking law as a stick with which to beat their employer. Such individuals could contact the statutory bodies should they find someone smoking in the workplace and seek to embarrass their employers. It is therefore vital to ensure that the new law is effectively applied."

- Ends -

Notes to Editors

About Bird & Bird

Bird & Bird is a full service international commercial law firm with an in-depth knowledge of chosen industry sectors. We focus on aviation & aerospace, communications, banking & financial services, e-commerce, information technology, life sciences, media and sport.

With offices in Beijing, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, The Hague, Hong Kong, London, Lyon, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Rome and Stockholm, we offer our clients local expertise within a global context, helping them to realise their business goals both domestically and internationally.

Bird & Bird was identified as one of the Top 50 Law Firms in the world that has “taken the greatest strides towards globalisation while maintaining quality”, in a recent survey carried out by researchers for the PLCWhich Lawyer? Yearbook.