The phrase "I know it's a filthy habit, but . . . " is unlikely to be heard again in the workplace from July 1, when the Health Act 2006 comes into force, making it illegal to smoke in practically all workplaces and indoor public places.
The law relates to any item which can be smoked, including pipes, cigars, hookahs and herbal as well as tobacco cigarettes. Smoking continues to be allowed in the home or places considered to be homes.
However, should one work from home, any part of the house used exclusively for work purposes will have to be smoke-free if it is used by more than one person who does not reside there or others enter to deliver or receive goods or services.
In addition, vehicles driven for company use also must also be smoke-free when ferrying passengers.
Employers should consider the needs of both smokers and non-smokers in meeting the legislative demands and draw up policies which will be regarded as fair by all.
Consultation with employees to develop the policies to ensure that the interests of all parties are best served is recommended.
Once agreed, the policy must be accessible to all so that failure to comply cannot be attributed to ignorance.
Employers must ensure that by July 1st they have:
* Made all employees, visitors, customers aware that smoking is banned at premises and in vehicles used for company purposes.
* Returned 'smoking rooms' to their original functions n Introduced a no smoking policy which is known/accessible to all
* Considered offering training/guidance to all employees including support for those looking to give up smoking.
* Put up legally required 'no smoking' signs (which can be downloaded from the internet) in premises, vehicles and home offices if appropriate.
Non-compliance carries significant fines. The maximum is £1,000 for failure to display appropriate no smoking signs should the matter go to court, while failing to prevent smoking in a no-smoking environment is up to £2,500.
Any person found smoking in a smoke-free location will receive a fine ranging from £30 up to £250.
The employer must act should an employee wilfully ignore the new law, or face being fined.
If the employee continues to smoke, the employer will have little choice but to action the disciplinary procedure in line with company policy, record name of individual, when and where noncompliance occurred and the outcome.
It is hoped that the new legislation results in a fresher, healthier working environment and healthier personnel.
If an employer has concerns about policies and procedures, they can contact the Irwin Mitchell employment law team on 0870 1500 100.
* Fergal Dowling is a partner and employment law specialist at Irwin Mitchell.