Research by legal compliance and best practice adviser Croner conducted earlier this year showed that up to a quarter of businesses misunderstood the basic intentions of the Health Bill, leaving them liable for prosecution when the Bill becomes law.
Current provisions under the Health Bill include:
Nasar Farooq, health & safety technical manager at Croner, believes that whilst the regulations will not be confirmed until October 2006, when the consultation period closes, employers should start planning now for its various implications.
He says: ‘At this point we know that a blanket ban on smoking in the vast majority of enclosed workplaces will be introduced next summer and although the detail has yet to be confirmed, employers needn’t wait for the consultation period to end before starting to plan how to manage it.
‘For example, company cars have been designated as workplaces in the guidelines, and although we don’t know if they will definitely fall under the ban, employers should be considering how they will enforce this now, rather than later.
‘Companies wanting to take a ‘belt and braces’ approach to the ban could actively ban smoking from their company cars. If it is only used by a smoker, they might have the latitude to continue to allow the driver to smoke in it, but if it could potentially be used by a non-smoker at any point, the issue becomes unclear, and a blanket ban becomes the simplest option.’ The new legislation will cover all public spaces and workplaces with very few exceptions, and Farooq is urging employers to prepare for it as seriously as they would for any other new employment law.
‘Employers should be consulting with their workforce over exactly what the smoking ban will mean to them, how behaviours need to change and what the consequences could be for all parties if they don’t.
'Agreed policies and procedures should be put into place and carefully monitored in advance of the ban, so that any issues can be worked out before it’s implemented. If the employers decide to recruit smokers, they should be informed of the smoking ban in advance to minimise the likelihood of any transgressions in the future.’