One in four employers is still unclear of the rules of the new smoking ban.

According to health and safety experts Croner, there is widespread confusion among employers over next summer's smoking ban.

The 2007 Health Bill will completely ban smoking in the vast majority of public spaces and workplaces, including outlawing the provision of smoking areas at work.

However, 72 per cent of businesses surveyed claimed their organisation was already compliant with the forthcoming law, yet 48 per cent say they do provide smoking areas for employees.

This leaves at least 24 per cent of employers believing they are compliant, when in actual fact they are not.

More encouraging is the 95 per cent of 159 senior HR professionals polled who said they are at least aware of the new law, even if many appear to be muddled by its requirements.

Trevor Davies, health & safety expert at Croner said: "The findings point to a clear misunderstanding among a worrying number of employers over what a complete ban actually means.

"With just under half saying they enforce a complete ban yet still provide smoking areas, it's impossible that 72 per cent asked in the same survey could be meeting the requirements of next year's Health Bill.

"It's encouraging that the vast majority have some sort of smoking policy in place, but having a policy doesn't mean organisations are ready for a total ban.

"Those who think they are already compliant should check that they are in reality enforcing a complete ban - which means the removal of smoking areas for employees."

Currently there is no specific legal requirement to ban or restrict smoking in the workplace.

The new legislation to ban smoking will cover all public spaces and workplaces, only with very limited exceptions notably; private homes, residential care homes, hotel rooms, prisons and hospitals.