England's smoking ban begins on 1 July 2007. Similar legislation has already been implemented in Scotland, and in Wales and Northern Ireland “Smoke-free” regulations were implemented during April 2007. The Smoke-free regulations impose significant financial penalties on those who do not comply so it is essential that businesses understand the impact of the new Smoke-free rules.
The ban applies to almost all enclosed and substantially enclosed premises which are open to the public and/or which are places of work and the ban will apply to most work vehicles, including company cars. However, hotels may make use of a specific exemption designed for accommodation for guests and club members. Hotels may retain designated smoking areas, however, this will only apply to hotel bedrooms and may not be the hotel bar or restaurant or other areas which are workplaces and/ or are open to the public.
A “designated bedroom” means a room which:
(a) is set apart exclusively for sleeping accommodation;
(b) has been designated in writing by the person having the charge of the premises in which the room is situated as being a room in which smoking is permitted;
(c) has a ceiling and, except for doors and windows, is completely enclosed on all sides by solid, floor to ceiling walls;
(d) does not have a ventilation system that ventilates into any other part of the premises (except any other designated bedrooms);
(e) does not have any door that opens onto smoke-free premises which is not mechanically closed immediately after use; and
(f) is clearly marked as bedroom in which smoking is permitted.
Aside from this exemption, what the ban essentially means for the hotels industry is that their staff, clients and visitors will not be able to smoke in their premises which are enclosed or substantially enclosed. In addition, the occupiers and managers of such premises have a duty to display nosmoking signage and to prevent people from smoking in those premises. Failure to comply with these duties is an offence and results in financial penalties. The offences and fines are as follows:
It will be an offence to:
1. smoke in a smoke-free place – fixed penalty of £50 or fine of up to £200;
2. fail to prevent somebody from smoking in a smoke free place – fine of up to £2,500;
3. fail to display “no-smoking” signs – fixed penalty of £200 or fine of up to £1,000.
The onus is on employers and businesses to enforce the ban and so employers and those involved in the management of Smoke-free premises face a higher fine for failing to put up signs or prevent smoking in Smoke-free premises than the employee or guest who is caught smoking.
There are some defences. A person charged with an offence of failing to prevent someone from smoking will have a defence if he can show that he took reasonable steps to cause the person in question to stop smoking, or that he did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that the person in question was smoking, or that on other grounds it was reasonable for him not to comply with the duty. There are similar defences to the offence of not fixing the correct “no smoking” signage.
The rules specify the signs which must be displayed, right down to their size and wording. Signs are readily available, free of charge, from the government. The signs must be displayed in a prominent position at each entrance to Smoke-free premises.
In a hotel which has concessions such as restaurants, bars and shops, where there are multiple occupiers, it is likely that signs would need to be displayed at each entrance to the hotel, and at each entrance to each concession inside the hotel (although the signs displayed in the concessions premises would not need to contain the wording which is ordinarily required and may just display the no-smoking symbol).
- Order the free “no smoking” signs and assess where they should be displayed.
- Asses whether you want to designate any bedrooms as smoking bedrooms and ensure they comply with the conditions outlined above.
- Inform your employees that smoking on the business’s premises is not allowed and will be policed.
- Consider including smoking on smoke-free premises under gross misconduct in your disciplinary policy. If you do make this change, inform your employees immediately of it.
- Consider implementing a smoke-free policy.
- Consider providing your employees with assistance to quit smoking..