Smoking ban may involve legal implications

The smoking ban in Northern Ireland may lead to solicitors seeing fewer claims for smoke-related illnesses in employees, but recent commentary has not fully addressed wider implications for employers, according to a report from the Lawyer.

Although the law has made clear that employers must protect staff from passively inhaled cigarette smoke in the workplace or face fines of up to £2,500, solicitors may have to face 'grey area' cases if bosses do not extend smoking restrictions to travelling staff.

The law has as yet not stipulated that clients such as suppliers refrain from smoking in their own homes when bar workers visit on business, yet if second-hand smoke causes a health issue in these circumstances, employers could face claims.

Legal experts have also commented that if legal restrictions are not made clearer there is a risk that employers could face allegations of breaching the Human Rights Act as has happened in Scotland.

Some Scottish employees in the public sector have approached solicitors for advice since the smoking ban was introduced as discrimination is also an issue also because smokers have faced new restrictions that other employees have not.

Although such moves to legal action are questionable, it is important that the government issues employers with legal guidelines to clarify the situation.

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