U.K. company gives non-smokers 4 more vacation days to promote healthy workplace

Should non-smokers get more vacation days than smokers?

Despite the well-documented health effects of smoking, many Canadians still leave work to do it every few hours.

In fact, according to Statistics Canada, roughly 4.9 million people smoked cigarettes either daily or occasionally in 2018.

The trends are similar in the U.K., which is why a Swindon-based company has announced it will provide non-smoking staff four extra days of vacation per year.

READ MORE: U.S. raises legal smoking age to 21 in effort to curb tobacco use

In a Facebook post shared on Jan. 2, KCJ Training & Employment Solutions said it would implement the “new non-smoking policy” at the beginning of 2020.

“We’re proud to incentivize our staff to quit smoking and to create a healthy workplace within our KCJ offices,” read the post.

*Our new non-smoking policy starting 2020*Cheeky cigarette breaks are a common feature of all office environments so…

Posted by KCJ Training & Employment Solutions on Thursday, January 2, 2020

KCJ was congratulated for the initiative, with one person calling it a “brilliant idea,” but the company can’t take all the credit.

In 2017, Japanese marketing firm Piala Inc. implemented the same policy, rewarding non-smokers with six extra days of paid holiday.

The decision was “pretty popular,” Hirotaka Matsushima, the firm’s corporate planning director, previously told Global News.

It remains to be seen whether Canadian companies will enact a similar policy, but some people, like Toronto resident Elizabeth Keyes, are all for it.

“My dad has worked at a factory for over 30 years now, and it is his pet peeve that smokers are able to go out and take breaks,” she previously told Global News.

“And what he does is hard labour. While he’s inside working, they are outside taking 15- to 30-minute breaks every day. Yet they get paid the same.”

She added that it’s not just about the smoking break, it’s also about getting to socialize with co-workers.

Do smokers end up getting more time off?

KCJ managing director Don Bryden is a smoker himself, so he knows it hurts productivity.

“It’s been taken on and embraced within the company by both smokers and non-smokers,” he told the BBC in an interview.

“I’m not saying stop , but if you say it’s three 10-minute smoke breaks a day, that equates to 16 and a quarter days a year based on an eight-hour working day.”

READ MORE: Quebec pledges new regulations for vaping by next spring

On average, each smoker costs an employer around $4,200 in productivity each year, according to 2013 statistics by the Conference Board of Canada.

The study also found $3,800 of that total was due to unauthorized smoke breaks and $414 due to increased absences.

Each daily smoker and recent quitter took almost 2.5 more sick days in 2010 compared to employees who have never smoked, according to the board.

Damage to your health

The negative health effects of smoking — for both regular and social smokers — are well-documented.

A 2017 study found that social smokers have the same elevated risks for high blood pressure and high cholesterol as their counterparts who smoke daily.

“Not smoking at all is the best way to go. Even smoking in a social situation is detrimental to your cardiovascular health,” Dr. Kate Gawlik, a clinical nursing professor and lead author of the 2017 study, previously said in a statement.

“One in 10 people in this study said they sometimes smoke, and many of them are young and already on the path to heart disease.”

The study looked at 39,555 people, and more than 10 per cent of respondents who participated labelled themselves as social smokers — meaning they don’t smoke every day. Another 17 per cent called themselves current smokers, who lit up at least once a day.

Among current and social smokers, 75 per cent had high blood pressure and roughly 54 per cent had high cholesterol.

READ MORE: How dangerous is vaping? What we know about its health risks

The health impact is another reason KCJ has implemented the policy.

“Remember: a healthier workplace is a happier workplace,” Bryden told the BBC.

— With files from Global News’ Katie Dangerfield and Carmen Chai

Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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