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Should Norfolk’s non-smokers get an extra six days of paid holiday to counteract smoking colleagues’ cigarette breaks?

PUBLISHED: 13:49 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:46 02 November 2017

PA Photo: Michael Crabtree

PA Photo: Michael Crabtree

Archant

A Japanese company is giving non-smoking employees an extra six days of paid holiday every year in a bid to counteract the cigarette breaks taken by their smoking colleagues.

But would such an initiative work in Norwich and be welcomed by businesses and staff in the city?

A Japanese company is giving non-smoking employees an extra six days of paid holiday every year in a bid to counteract the cigarette breaks taken by their smoking colleagues.

But would such an initiative work in Norwich and be welcomed by businesses and staff in the city?

The issue has been highlighted by Tokyo-based marketing firm Piala Inc, which introduced the non-smoking perk in September.

“One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems”, said Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for the company.

Three office workers smoking outside. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto Three office workers smoking outside. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The comment was seen by the chief executive, who agreed and decided to give non-smokers extra time off to compensate.

Resentment among the non-smokers grew because the company’s head office is on the 29th floor of an office block in the Ebisu district of Tokyo. Anyone wanting a cigarette had to go to the basement level, with each smoking break lasting around 15 minutes.

Aviva, one of Norwich’s biggest employers, addresses the issue of smoking breaks by encouraging all employees to have a break.

Spokesman John Franklin said: “People who don’t smoke, we encourage them to take breaks and take time away from their desks.”

The company has table football and table tennis for people to enjoy during breaks, as part of its aim to improve the health and wellbeing of employees.

However, with employees already enjoying up to 29 days of annual leave each year, the idea of giving out any more holiday to non-smokers is unlikely to find any traction with the insurance giant.

A study published in 2104 found that smoking breaks and additional sick leave cost UK businesses £8.7 billion in lost productivity every year.

The research, carried out for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), shows the average smoker takes four smoking breaks in the working day, lasting for around 10 minutes.

Smokers, who make up around 20 percent of the workforce, also take nearly a day (0.7) more of sick leave a year on average compared to their non-smoking colleagues, highlighting the increased likelihood of regular sickness caused by smoking.

This equates to 136 hours of lost productive time every year for the average smoker – costing the average business £1,522 in unproductive wages. But many smokers would welcome the support of their employers in helping to quit their deadly addiction, with seven out of ten (71pc) saying they would find free information on quitting smoking useful.

It is estimated that 18pc of people in Norfolk were smokers in 2016.

Thriving Workplaces is Norfolk’s free workplaces health provider, provided by Thrives Tribe and commissioned by Norfolk County Council.

It is working with companies across the county to improve the health of employees, and one area of its work is running initiatives with businesses to support staff who want to give up smoking.

One company it is working with on a wellbeing initiative is Epos Now, based at Norwich’s Whiting Road. It supplies point-of-sale equipment and software primarily to retail and hospitality businesses, and has 170 employees in the UK and another 40 in the US.

A recent employee wellbeing survey has highlighted that its young workforce, for which the average age is in the mid-20s, has a higher than average rate of people who do smoke and a number of staff said they would like help to quit smoking.

Human resources manager Claudia Bangs said the company would not be in favour of giving additional holiday to non-smokers and tries to create a culture where staff are treated as adults who can make their own judgment calls about if they are spending too much time out having a cigarette break.

She said: “We would prefer to look at how we can help our staff cut down or give up smoking.”

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