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TUC urges employers not to delay making workplaces smokefree

2 April 2007

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With just under three months to go before all public places and workplaces in England must become smokefree, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is today (Monday 2 April 2007) urging employers to introduce smoking bans into their shops, factories, offices, restaurants and bars.
As the smoking ban comes into force in workplaces across Wales, the TUC is publishing a guide for union safety reps to help them work with employers to bring in the ban in a way that meets all the legal requirements, fully involves staff and doesn’t persecute smokers.
Every year, around 700 workers die as a result of secondhand smoke inhaled at their place of work, and passive smoking is also responsible for thousands of episodes of illness amongst UK employees, says the TUC.
The TUC guide reminds employers that there is much to think about before any workplace can become smokefree, especially because around a quarter of all UK workers smoke, though not necessarily at work. But despite the looming ban, around two million people are employed in places where smoking is still allowed everywhere, and another 10 million can smoke at least somewhere on the premises.
Employers should introduce smoking bans with the full involvement of staff and unions, says the TUC. By 1 July all English workplaces will have to display nonsmoking signs at all entrances, and in any company vehicles, all smoking rooms will have to disappear and the issue of breaks for smokers who need to go outside to light up also needs to be considered.

The guide advises that every workplace should draw up a smoking policy that:

  • Protects all staff and members of the public from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.
  • Does not stigmatise or discriminate against smokers and offers hardened nicotine addicts help in giving up if they want to quit.
  • Sets out clearly what will happen to employees who flout the workplace ban.
  • States where employees can go for a smoke and what they should do with their cigarette ash and butts.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “With less than three months to go before smoking is outlawed in all English workplaces and public spaces, employers don’t have much time to get their act together. But with a little thought and forward planning, making a workplace smokefree can be a fairly painless experience, even for the most hardcore smokers. The key is the involvement of staff and our guide sets out how to do just that.”
“Negotiating smokefree workplaces” says there is no need for employers to stop employees from smoking altogether, though companies might want to discourage groups of smokers from gathering outside, particularly if they are in company uniform. The guide also warns against using the ban as an excuse to stop employing smokers.
Negotiating smokefree workplaces sets out the exemptions to the smokefree regulations, suggests ways in which employers can help their staff quit and includes a draft smoking policy that employers can adapt to suit their individual workplaces.