How a policy on holiday entitlement could leave smokers fuming…

An employer’s decision to “reward” non-smoking staff with extra holiday has made its way to the headlines in the last week.

It’s an interesting decision. Don Bryden, the Managing Director of the firm who incidentally is a smoker, cites the rationale that:

“three 10 minute breaks a day 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”

In effect, his policy compensates non-smokers for the breaks that they don’t take during the working day, which anyone who has ever worked in an office will know is a significant bone of contention in the ongoing smoke free workplace debates.

There is clearly an underpinning desire to promote a healthier workplace, something that Don himself admits.

As a non-smoker, I obviously have a vested interest in supporting a policy like this. But I can see that for “political” reasons, many employers won’t want to implement a policy that could create further animosity between different groups of employees. It could fuel the fire, if you’ll pardon the pun. And I have to admit, a small, minute part of me, does feel sorry for smokers in these situations. In the last few years we’ve slowly ostracised smokers, they can’t smoke at work, at restaurants or in bars or clubs. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no desire to go back to being forced to savour the taste of table four chain smoking whilst I dine out, but it must be fairly miserable having to brave the elements every time you feel the need. Now we are adding the pressure from employers, colleagues and family members to kick the habit in order to get some extra leave.

This policy would undoubtedly be a further means by which an employer can promote a healthier workplace. There’s the subtext that the employer isn’t really “giving” a lot here either, because the smokers that want to get the leave would be quitting so invariably will be taking less breaks.

It leads me to question where this could go next, will we see employers offering employees more holiday if they increase their weekly exercise, or asking them to hop on the scales before their holiday entitlement is calculated each year….  Only time will tell.

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    Jayme NicholsonPartner and Head of Employment

    Jayme is a Partner and Head of our Employment team

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