SUBMISSION BY UNISON Scotland Response
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to the call for evidence from the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee regarding the above Bill. While welcoming the general principles and aims of the Bill, UNISON Scotland would like to comment on some of the issues highlighted in the call for evidence.
UNISON Scotland supports the general principles of this Bill, namely to prohibit smoking in regulated areas, these being enclosed public spaces where food is supplied and consumed and which also includes a prescribed period before food is supplied and consumed. Essentially this will apply to restaurants, pubs and clubs but will also include higher and further education facilities as well as local authority premises such as community centres and any other venues which may be let out for events in which food may be supplied or consumed.
The detrimental effects of smoking are well known with it being the single greatest preventable cause of ill-health and premature death in Scotland, accounting for more than 13,000 deaths and 33,500 hospital admissions - at an estimated cost of £200 million each year.
The British Medical Association (BMA) estimates that 1,000 people a year die in the UK as a result of being exposed to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS). Also the Government White Paper on Tobacco (1988) highlighted that non-smokers who are exposed to ETS in the workplace have their risk of lung cancer increased by 16-19%. Passive smoking also increases the possibility of an acute coronary event by 25-35%.
UNISON Scotland therefore believes that under health and safety legislation employers must protect the health of employees and provide a healthy and safe working environment. With today's level of awareness on passive smoking it would be difficult for any employer to argue that they are not in breach of these duties by not prohibiting smoking at work in all areas except for specifically designated places where non-smokers have no reason to enter.
This Bill will impact on a range of UNISON Scotland members, both in regard to providing them with a healthier workplace but may also place some in danger of committing a breach of two of the offences described in the Bill. These are permitting smoking in a regulated area or a failure to display signs indicating that smoking is not permitted. These offences are aimed at the owner, occupier, manager or any other person for the time being in charge of the regulated area as well as the owner, manager or any other person for the time being in charge of the food operation in the regulated area.
UNISON Scotland would like further clarification on the definition of a person `for the time being in charge` of either the regulated area and/or food preparation in the regulated area, in order to ensure that all staff are aware of their duties and responsibilities under this proposed legislation.
UNISON Scotland also has concerns in the case of venues let out to the public. In this case we believe that the person hiring the premises (community halls etc) should be regarded as the person `for the time being in charge' rather than local authority staff (i.e. hall keeper/ caretaker etc.). This could be achieved by having clear lettings policies that make this responsibility clear to anyone wishing to hire such premises.
We would also welcome some clarification on the role of employers, especially in regard to having some obligation to provide training to employees to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities under this proposed legislation. We also believe that employers should be made fully aware of their responsibilities and the proposed penalties that they may be liable for under the proposed legislation in order that any corporate responsibility is not wholly thrust on individual employees.
As mentioned earlier UNISON Scotland believes that all employees should enjoy a healthy and safe working environment. As such we would prefer sensible no smoking policies, drafted in consultation with safety representatives and branches, for all workplaces.
However in the context of regulated areas UNISON Scotland welcomes the general principles and aims of this Bill.
Consultation/ key concerns
UNISON Scotland believes that there has been adequate consultation on this Bill and that the call for evidence provides organisations and individuals with the opportunity to raise their concerns.
As mentioned above, UNISON Scotland would like some clarification on who would be regarded under this Bill as the `person for the time being in charge' of the regulated area and/ or the food preparation in the regulated area. There may also be some concern for staff safety when requesting people to not smoke in regulated areas.