The classic workplace dilemma: should smoking breaks in the workplace be allowed?
Once an inalienable tradition, now it is a bone of contention. There is no denying that smokers need their nicotine (despite legislation in recent years, a 2014 Guardian article noted that over 18% of the UK adult population is still regular smokers), but given that Smoking is an option, should workers who smoke consume more time away from their job than their non-smoking colleagues?
The financial cost
Research published in 2014 by the British Heart Foundation found that four ten-minute smoke breaks per day cost British businesses £ 8.4 billion a year; Or to break it down a bit more, that £ 1,815 a year for every full-time smoking worker.
That’s a lot of money. The impact on productivity
Of course, money is not the only measure, and in terms of overall productivity, an argument can be made for the improved mental focus that follows a short break – that moment of peace and reflection may mean that a newly nicotinated smoker is more productive. than the colleague who has not taken a break.
However, the comment in the report suggests that the same smoker will have been less productive before the break, and the dip and the boost will cancel each other out. Add to that the fact that smokers take more sick leave on average and the E cigarette impact on productivity is definitely negative.
What does the law say?
For starters, there is no legal right to a smoke break and smoking in the workplace is acceptable, but only on your official break. The Working Time Regulation says that anyone who works a shift of 6 hours or more is entitled to a 20-minute break outside the workplace, but smoking is not specifically mentioned.
Also, enclosed spaces (meaning anywhere inside) are required by law to be smoke-free.
The days when the staff room had tar-yellow walls are long gone.
What is a good policy to have?
It is entirely up to you as the employer whether you want to allow smoking breaks. As long as you don’t break the regulations on breaks in general, you can pretty much do whatever you want on the tobacco front.
However, many companies are reluctant to establish a policy; not wanting to appear like Big Brother, constantly monitoring the movements of his workers.
But any company can expect a worker to dedicate the time for which they are hired and the only breaks to which workers are entitled are those established in the Regulations or in their contract.
This is exactly why a short but clear smoking policy can be helpful.
If you wish to allow smoking breaks, please do so in writing and indicate the reasonable number and duration of breaks at your workplace. That way, even if there is dissatisfaction, it will be with the policy (a piece of paper) and you are less likely to have conflicts between the smoking and non-smoking staff.
You can also use the policy to designate appropriate smoking areas (smoke-shrouded staff around the front door rarely make a good impression on visitors) and establish whether staff should mark the exit for a smoke break.
The last question is whether e-cigarettes or vaping should be allowed in the workplace, it’s up to you. You can also take the opportunity to offer help quitting to those who want to (think of it as an investment in future productivity).
The best way forward is to talk to staff, smokers and non-smokers alike, about what they want and what they think is fair. Most smokers want (need) their breaks, but they rarely require special treatment. Similarly, non-smokers may resent the extra breaks, but generally understand that smokers who cannot smoke create a more tense work environment.
Talk to everyone and try to find the best compromise for your workforce. Most people will be happy to hear it explained to them.