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Recruitment firm in Swindon has rewarded four days extra holiday to employees who do not take additional breaks in which to smoke.

KCJ Training and Employment Solutions has outlined that the intention is to compensate staff who do not smoke as an alternative to penalising those who do. In the new measure, employees are told that instead of taking a 10-minute break per day to smoke, they can instead use this time for extra holidays during the year. As explained by managing director Don Bryden, daily smoking breaks totalling 10 minutes equates, roughly, to just over five days in a year away from work.

Brydon affirms that the intention of the measure is not to discriminate ‘against anyone’, with his opinion being that it is still fine to take a smoking break if an employee wishes to. However, he hopes that this approach can encourage more people to quit smoking, with the ultimate aim of facilitating a healthier workforce. Bryden is also happy to consider providing holidays depending on how long an employee does not use the break; if a person hasn’t smoked for three months, they receive a day off, and so on.

Whilst this move is certainly an interesting approach to how to respond to smoking in the workplace, it in no way reflects what organisations are legally obliged to do. Provided that they are facilitating statutory minimum rest breaks, which is at least 20 minutes for staff who work for more than six hours in a day, it is up to them if they choose to allow additional breaks in which employees can smoke. However, it should be remembered that that employees who do not smoke may complain that they are not being provided an equal amount of breaks to their smoking colleagues, which could foster accusations of preferential treatment for the smokers and potentially leave non-smokers feeling isolated.

If allowing additional breaks is an option that an organisation wishes to go down, one option is to impose a rule that the time taken during a smoking break must be made up elsewhere. For example, if employees are to have a 10-minute break in the morning in which to smoke if they want to, they could therefore be expected to take 10 minutes off their lunch hour. If they don’t choose to take this break, they can have their full hour as normal. In this way, everyone is being provided an equal amount of break time but also have the opportunity to take an extra break to smoke if they wish to.

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