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Smoking in the workplace

Since the introduction of the Health Act 2006, all enclosed public places and work places in the UK have been smoke free. This also includes company cars/vans, pool and hire cars.

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What are businesses responsibilities with regards to smoking? 

Businesses must:

  • make sure people don’t smoke in enclosed work premises or shared vehicles
  • display ‘no smoking’ signs in all workplaces and vehicles. In Wales these must be bilingual signs.

This legislation is enforced by local authorities, rather than the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or employment tribunals.

However, health and safety legislation does require employees to reduce the risk to the health of their employees from second hand smoking to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. The HSE suggests businesses comply with this by doing the following:

  • Have a specific policy on smoking in the workplace.
  • Take action to reduce the risk to the health and safety of their employees from second hand smoke
  • Smoking policy should give priority to the needs of non-smokers who do not wish to breathe tobacco smoke
  • Employers should consult their employees and their representatives on the appropriate smoking policy to suit their particular workplace.

Fines and penalties

Businesses can be fined up to £2,500 by local authorities if they don’t stop people smoking in the workplace or up to £1,000 if they don’t display ‘no smoking’ signs.

In Scotland, there is a fixed penalty fine of £200. If fine is not paid, it goes up to £2,500.

Smoking in cars

You should make it clear to employees that smoking is prohibited in company cars/vans, pool and hire cars which are not for the sole use of the driver. The legislation does not apply to an employee’s own vehicle which is used for business purposes.

Creating a smoking policy

Your policy should make it clear to employees the penalties, both legally and contractually, of contravening the law on smoking in the workplace and your own policies.  

For example, for smoking in a smoke-free area or vehicle, the employee could face a fixed penalty notice of £50 or a fine of up to £200. Your policy should make it clear that they are personally liable for this penalty and that contravening the regulations will be subject to disciplinary action, which may lead to dismissal.

A sample smoking policy is contained in our contract of employment template.

Do I need to make provisions for smokers?

You are under no legal obligation to make provisions for smokers but you cannot prevent someone from smoking in their free time, i.e. breaks, as long as they are not doing it in enclosed area or area designated as smoke-free to protect other employees. 

Some employers choose to designate extra break times for smokers, but this is a personal choice and depends on your individual business circumstances. However, research shows that ‘smoke-free’ workplaces, can actually help smokers to give up or reduce the amount they smoke.

For more help with creating a smoking policy, members can call our helpline on 0845 130 1722. Not  a member? Call us to find out how we can help your business manage employment and safety laws.