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The legalities of smoking at work.


Barrister Fenton Bresler examines what the law says and doesn't say in this Times article on smoking at work.

A 1988 report to the then Conservative government concluded that passive smoking "may be causing several hundred lung cancer deaths a year in the UK". The labour government has agreed and the management of the risk of passive smoking in the workplace now comes under the remit of the Health and Safety Executive. Their official advice is that "passive smoking at work can damage your health", but they have not made smoking at work illegal, except where it already existed, for instance in the catering trade and at petrol stations.

Statutory instruments, acts of parliament and even case law gives businesses and HR managers no clear and definitive guidance on the subject. However, before too long expect that cases for lung cancer caused by passive smoking will come to court. It will be for the court to decide whether the employer has a responsibility to protect the workforce from the effects of passive smoking (if any) or whether the individual's rights would be infringed should an employer place a blanket ban.

The Times articles give details of the cases to date.


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