cigarette smoke

A number of companies around the world are exploring innovative ways to improve employee health and boost productivity by giving non-smokers additional leave.

The trend seemingly began with Japanese marketing firm Piala Inc back in 2017, after a non-smoking employee submitted a complaint about how smoke breaks were affecting productivity.

Company CEO Takao Asuka decided to give non-smoking employees time off to compensate, saying he hopes “to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion”.

UK recruitment firm KCJ Training and Employment Solutions also introduced a policy to compensate staff who do not take cigarette breaks during the working day in 2020.

British legal firm VWV noted at the time that although the policy seems legal, it could effective “create a two-tier workforce”, pointing out that smokers may point to their colleagues taking breaks in other ways, like using social media, taking longer in the kitchen or chatting with colleagues.

KCL managing director Don Bryden however explained that it is not a matter of discrimination.

“If you say it’s three 10-minute smoke breaks a day that equates to 16 and a quarter days a year based on an eight-hour working day…Let’s cut it by a third and say you only take one 10-minute smoking break a day, that adds up to just over five days.”

Mr Bryden added that the measure could help people give up the habit.

“I’ve been asked if someone doesn’t smoke for three months, will I give them a day off, and I said of course,” he said. “And if they can do it for six months I’ll give them two days.”

“Remember, a healthier workplace is a happier workplace.”

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