Paid time off to help smokers quit is a ridiculous proposal

I am definitely one of those employers fuming over suggestions that we should give staff paid time off to kick their filthy smoking habit (Personnel Today, 1 May).

I was aghast at guidance issued recently by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), suggesting that employers should let staff attend smoking cessation clinics in work hours – and still pay them for it. What next, I wonder? Holidays for people addicted to sunbeds? Cocoa patches for chocoholics?

I may be an advocate of measures that improve employee health – and, admittedly, any measure to reduce smoking rates may result in a welcome improvement to our absence figures – but at what cost to us?

If I went along with NICE’s suggestion, I’m sure my chief executive would be breathing down my neck to prove the return on a not inconsiderable investment. Yet all the smokers I know who swear they’re going to give up will always break their promises and swiftly go back to square one as soon as the nicotine withdrawal becomes too much for them.

And that’s not to mention the resentment such a move would cause among non-smoking employees, who are already miffed at the number of smoking breaks their fag-end colleagues already enjoy.

I’ll provide help in other ways, such as helplines, but otherwise, I’m going to summon up lots of willpower and say ‘no’ to paid time off for smokers – whatever those NICE people recommend.


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