There is no legal ban on smoking at work, except where there are safety applications. But the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which came into effect on January 1 this year provide that non-smokers should be protected from any discomfort caused by smoking in rest areas. Employers must make suitable arrangements.
Even before this, many staff rooms have been made smoke-free zones because of the implications arising from a number of cases concerning the effects of passive smoking on people with breathing difficulties, or pregnant women.
In one case a bank worker was awarded an out-of-court settlement after she had alleged that her lung disorder had worsened because of smoking. Although she had advised her employers that she must work in a smoke-free area her employers continued to allow her colleagues to smoke in the area where she worked.
In another case, (Bland versus Stockport Borough Council) compensation was given to an employee who proved that his bronchitis was aggravated by passive smoking at work.
In Druden versus Greater Glasgow Health Board a smoker attempted to reverse the trend, claiming that she was entitled to smoke at work since her contract had made no mention of a non-smoking policy. Her employer had introduced a total no-smoking policy to which she objected. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that an employee has no such "right to smoke", while an employer does have a right to impose a non-smoking policy.
This is a sensitive issue and all schools should have a policy on smoking after consultation with staff. Non-smokers must be provided with a smoke-free atmosphere. Smokers may be provided with alternative areas for smoking. Schools must also ensure that pupils, too, do not smoke in areas which could affect others.
Chris Lowe is honorary legal consultant to the Secondary Heads Association