Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a ban on hiring smokers, which some employment lawyers believe could lead to a similar UK ban on the recruitment of smokers. In a memo to staff, the WHO justified the ban by stating that it has a responsibility to ensure its aims are reflected in its recruitment practices. Although many employers already have non-smoking offices, there is nothing in the law as it currently stands to prevent employers going a step further and refusing to recruit smokers altogether.
Tony Bourne, partner at Glovers has stated " as such a measure would apply to all potential employees, it could not be viewed as discrimination and could even be defended as a rigorous application of health and safety procedures. Bourne also commented that although the law seeks to protect individuals from discrimination on attributes they have no control over, such as race and sex, the law does little to protect individuals in relation to "issues which could be construed as bad habits".