Every smoker on your staff may be costing your organisation up to $8,000 every year. The reason? Smokers on average take 60 minutes a day having smoking breaks, and this is equates to 30 working days per year. For someone on a $60,000 salary, that’s around $8,000 for lighting up.
Research from ASH UK suggests that the average smoker also takes five more sick days per year than the non-smoker. “Then there’s the hidden costs,” Natalie Clays from Allen Carr said. “Smoking also impacts on mental health by increasing anxiety and reducing concentration. There is no such thing as a happy smoker.”
In 2010 the federal Health Department sparked outrage among staff when they issued a notice that employees were thereafter banned from smoking during work hours or “when representing the department in any capacity.” Staff were only permitted to smoke during meal breaks and not within 15 metres of the workplace. Notably, the notice also offered support to those wanting to quit smoking.
The move was aimed at improving their health and the ”professional reputation of the department”, but was slammed by employee advocate groups as ‘heavy handed’. Yet the policy was legally permissible and followed similar moves by other government departments.
Nadine Flood from the Community and Public Sector Union said the policy was well intentioned but ill-considered and argued that that it would have a negative effect on staff engagement. “Rather than focus on the positive support they are offering employees to quit, they have also started by threatening disciplinary action,” she said.
Establishing/reinforcing workplace smoking policies
In designing a smoking breaks policy, it is not only the needs of smokers that HR must address, but, importantly, also the rights of the non-smokers and of course the company’s bottom line. It should firmly establish where the business stands on when (or if) smoking breaks are permitted and of what maximum duration they can be, and put a number on how many breaks would be “too many”.
Issues which may be considered in a smoking policy include:
- A statement that the organisation operates in a non-smoking environment, and whether the organisation will accommodate the needs of smokers
- If smoking breaks are permitted, HR must decide on whether to take a restricted or unrestricted approach: the latter would state that the privilege would be removed if abused, and the former that smoking is only permitted during designated break times (eg lunch break)
- List of designated smoking areas and a request that butts are disposed of properly
- A statement of support to employees who wish to quit smoking — whether by providing access to quit programs or by subsidising quitting aids (eg chewing gum, patches)
World No Tobacco Day will take place on 31 May 2012.