Following the news that restaurant chain Pizza Hut has bowed to customer pressure and banned smoking in all of its restaurants, a new poll of HR professionals suggests that the majority are in favour of an all-out ban on smoking in public places to help protect staff.
Nearly three-quarters of the 203 professionals polled on HR Gateway (www.hrgateway.com) voted for smoke-free workplaces with only a third opposed to a ban.
The finding was welcomed by ASH, the anti-smoking lobby:
"This is absolutely great news and part of a growing trend," said ASH’s Amanda Sandford. "Banning smoking means healthier staff which has a direct positive impact on absence levels.
"There is also a knock-on effect where smokers tend to try giving up because of the policy. This means that the workforce tends to get healthier if firms employ smoking bans which benefits staff, customers and employers,’ she said.
But Owen Tudor, Health and Safety Commissioner and safety expert for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that firms needed to be careful before implementing such bans. It had to be a matter of negotiation, he said:
"I do not believe that a blanket ban is a fair way to proceed. Any no-smoking policies should be negotiated between staff and employer. In bars, for example, there are other ways to remove smoke from the working environment such as ventilators.
"However, one particular pub chain found that banning smoking around the bar area led to a dramatic increase in beer sales as customers did not like waiting for a beer in a smoky environment,’ said Tudor.
A ban would impact the 12 million adults in who still UK smoke cigarettes – some 27 per cent of the adult population. Among its wider implications would be the issue of the working time lost by employees taking cigarette breaks.
Many public sector organisations have adopted an increase in the hours of smokers to cover the time lost to smoke breaks. Private sector employers often address the balance through giving non-smoking employees time off in lieu.
As HR Gateway's Vanessa Stebbings points out, while employees have the right to work in a comfortable working environment, issues of fairness, as well as health, have to be taken into account:
"Whilst health remains at the forefront of this policy success can be hampered where the wider implications are ignored," she said.