My boss is a huge tobacco fan and insists on smoking cigarettes in his office (much to the annoyance of everyone else).  I’ve heard that there should be rules coming into force next year which will stop him smoking in the office.  Is this true as I’m at the end of my tether?

Yours

Ash Tray

 

Dear Ash

I have some good news for you as from summer 2007, all public places and workplaces will become smoke-free in England, bar a limited number of exemptions.  The smoking regulations are currently in draft form but should be finalised soon.

In their current form, the regulations state that virtually all public places, workplaces and vehicles used for business purposes must be smoke-free: all enclosed and substantially enclosed premises will need to be smoke free. The regulations define enclosed premises as structures with a ceiling or roof, and substantially enclosed premises as structures with openings that are less than half the total area of the walls.  Given the widely defined “enclosed public places”, the smoke-free legislation will cover: offices, factories, restaurants, schools, bars and public houses, shops, hotels, casinos, dance halls, discotheques, club premises, sports centres, healthcare facilities, trains, buses, taxis, and public telephone kiosks.  This list is by no means exhaustive, given the all encompassing nature of the regulations.  

The regulations will however allow smoking in certain premises such as private residential accommodation.  For example, the regulations will allow hotels and care homes to have designated rooms for smoking.  It is unlikely that employers will be able to offer designated smoking rooms as they have been outlawed in Scotland (the first place in the UK to impose the smoking ban). 

Failure to comply with the regulations will be a criminal offence.  Employers will be fined a fixed penalty for allowing staff to smoke on the premises.  In addition, all smoke-free premises and vehicles will require prescribed no smoking signs, and employers will be fined a fixed penalty for failing to display such warning notices.

In any event, you should not need to wait for the regulations to come into force before you can take action against your boss’s behaviour, as your employer is under a duty to provide you with a suitable working environment.  The Health and Safety Executive advises employers to protect its employees from the effects of second hand smoke by:

  • having a specific policy on smoking in the workplace;
  • taking action to reduce the risk to the health and safety of their employees from second hand smoke to as low a level as is reasonably practicable; 
  • incorporating smoking policies to give priority to the needs of non-smokers who do not wish to breathe tobacco smoke; and
  • consulting with employees and their representatives on the appropriate smoking policy to suit their particular workplace.

Given that you say many others in the office are unhappy with him smoking in the office, you should perhaps consider collectively discussing the matter with Human Resources and asking them to intervene.  Alternatively, you could raise your concerns with your Health and Safety representative or if you do not have one, an employee representative or more senior colleague who can discuss your complaints with management on your behalf.

Good luck – I hope the matter can soon be resolved.  In any event, take comfort from the fact that by summer 2007 you will be enjoying a smoke-free working environment.

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