Much talked-about smoking policy begins

A new smoking policy which sees Breckland Council workers made to 'clock off' each time they take a cigarette break began yesterday.

The proposals were drawn up after a staff survey revealed a degree of resentment among the workforce about the amount of time some colleagues spent enjoying their vice during business hours.

As of yesterday, all 280 staff members at the council's Dereham offices will have to clock in and out for cigarette breaks.

William Nunn, Breckland Council leader, said it would be an extension of the council's existing flexi-time scheme and would not really make a difference to most workers.

He said: 'This policy has been introduced following thorough consultation with staff and it merely formalises what more than half our staff who smoke have been doing for a number of years.

'Our flexible working system allows smokers to take smoking breaks without affecting the amount of time spent working and this brings fairness for all.'

The policy will initially run for a six-month trial period and will be enforced with disciplinary action.

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When councillors voted to adopt the policy last month, it attracted worldwide attention.

National newspapers, ITV's Loose Women, BBC Radio One and media in America and India all reported on the story when news of the plans first emerged.

But Mr Nunn said: 'We are far from the first council to have introduced a policy such as this and, to be honest, we have been slightly surprised at the huge amount of media coverage it has received.'