A recruitment agency has taken the revolutionary measure of rewarding employees with four extra days of annual leave, for not smoking at work. Managing Director, Don Bryden of KCJ Training and Employment Solutions in Swindon, has introduced the measure despite being a smoker himself.
He states “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”.
The rationale behind the new policy is for those employees “who are sitting there working while the others take their ciggie break get some sort of compensation”. Mr Bryden has also attempted to with smokers by promising to give them an extra day’s leave if they do not smoke for three months, and a further day of leave for not smoking for a further three months and so on.
Challenges Behind the Smoking at Work Policy
The decision appears to have been given some thought but the practical monitoring of this may prove difficult. Various scenarios should be considered when implementing any new policy. For example;
- What method would be implemented to check if an employee has smoked or not?
- Does the employee in question have to stop smoking entirely or stop during working hours only?
- What would an employer do in a situation where an employee asserts that they have stopped smoking but another employee states that they saw them smoking during working hours?
- If it is found that the employee lied about not smoking, would they then be subjected to disciplinary proceedings?
- Do the same rules apply to vaping?
- What if an employee who is trying to quit has lapsed and had one cigarette in a three-month period? Do they have to ‘admit’ their error and are they therefore not allowed the extra day annual leave?
- Would they be allowed to take a full day annual leave minus the time they took to smoke that one cigarette or would they not be entitled to any annual leave at all, which seems disproportionate and could amount to a punishment?
These are some examples of challenges that may arise and it will be interesting to see how they are managed.
A more traditional alternative to the above and one which would be easier to monitor and should avoid the aforementioned challenges, is to allow smoking breaks on the condition that smokers make their time up. This puts all employees on an equal footing as smokers are still entitled to their smoke break, whilst non-smokers are not put at a disadvantage by not having a smoke break. Businesses will also avoid the time lost, as outlined by Mr Bryden, by employees taking smoking breaks.
A final point is that Mr Bryden stated “I’m not discriminating against anyone”. As addiction to cigarettes is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, he is correct. However, employers must take advice prior to implementing policies such as this, as they may inadvertently discriminate against a protected characteristic. A policy which initially seems thoughtful, such as this, can quickly unravel and turn into a claim for discrimination.