· 1 min read · Features

Hot topic: Extra leave for non-smokers, part two


Japanese firm Piala recently announced six extra paid leave days a year for non-smoking staff

It said this was to compensate for the time their colleagues spend on cigarette breaks. But is this legal? Is it a company’s place to encourage people to be healthier? Might such a move encourage presenteeism rather than staff working in a way that suits them?

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, says:

"At this time of year when many of us are making resolutions to change our behaviour, often choosing healthier approaches to life, what role does the employer have in supporting the workforce and rewarding them in their choices: both to help them and to help organisational performance?

"In the case of the NHS, we also know that the health service should focus more efforts on prevention of illness, and where better to start than with our own workforce? There has been much attention in the media about the limitations we are placing on the size of confectionary but this is part of a wider programme that focuses on healthier diets and drinking, as well as smoking cessation, weight loss, exercise and mental wellbeing. We believe passionately that healthier employees help our patients be healthier too."

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health, says:

"The benefits of smoking cessation in the workplace are many. Former smokers will be in better health, take fewer sick days, have fewer medical appointments and will be more productive. We estimate that sick days and smoking breaks alone cost the economy £6.79 billion a year in England. Work environments have been shown to influence smokers’ behaviour and success in quitting. Environments that support quitting and encourage it as the social norm are more likely to see staff members successfully quit.

"Some employers have seen success by providing in-house support, access to subsidised nicotine replacement therapy so smokers can abstain while working, or giving smokers time off to attend local NHS treatment services.

"For most smokers smoking is not a choice but an addiction they will have started as teens. Supporting them is much more effective than stigmatising their addiction. Supporting smokers to quit is best for them, and best for your business. Everybody wins."

Read the first part of this hot topic, with Fletchers Solicitors' Tim Scott, and Coffin Mew's Leon Deakin