Firms tell smokers to light up in their own time

Employers are supporting a local authority’s decision to demand that smokers make up the time they spend on cigarette breaks.

The introduction this month of London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ policy sparked a protest by 500 staff, who walked out the day it was made (News, 10 October).

But other employers have contacted Personnel Today to say they have taken a similar line.

Peter Wood, head of personnel at Arun District Council, said the authority has had a similar policy for two years. Smokers are allowed two 10-minute breaks a day, after which they have to make up the time within a flexitime scheme.

At insurance company Accident Assurance in Birmingham, staff who smoke have to sign an agreement that they will forfeit part of their lunch break for smoking breaks. They take a half-hour lunch break and quarter-hour smoking breaks in the morning and afternoon.

“This works well in our company, and removes the problem of non-smokers claiming they have longer working days,” said HR manager Mandi Silverwood.

Peter Smith, a compensations and benefits adviser, has done research which shows smokers spend on average 20 minutes away from their workplaces.

Pam Lloyd, HR manager at Sellers Information Pack, a company which advises people selling property, said it realigns the lunch break to make it an hour’s break to be taken as the employee wants. She says at least half an hour must be taken around the traditional midday slot, but the other half hour can be taken as two or more short breaks.

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