Although the percentage of American adults that smoke has dropped significantly from 20.9% in 2005 to 15.5% in 2016, smoking-related illnesses are still costing businesses more than $156 billion in lost productivity each year.
The awareness on the negative effects of smoking has drastically increased over the past decade. As a result, many organizations have taken action like creating designated smoking areas, enforcing a smoking distance from the building, and even so much as to becoming a completely tobacco free campus in order to promote a healthy working environment.
In most cases, these types of actions have had a positive impact on the workplace, but now there is a new employee demand hitting the desks of many HR professionals today.
Should nonsmokers receive additional days off?
The average smoker spends approximately 6 days per year on smoke breaks, and now nonsmokers are taking a stand with the belief that they should be equally compensated with vacation days. A recent HaloCigs study surveyed over 1,000 Americans to ask their views on whether or not nonsmokers deserve additional vacation days and received the following results:
Nonsmokers do not deserve any additional vacation days
- 38.2% of smokers vs. 19.9% nonsmokers
Nonsmokers deserve 1-2 additional vacation days
- 17.4% of smokers vs. 24.6% nonsmokers
Nonsmokers deserve 3-5 additional vacation days
- 28% of smokers vs. 41.9% nonsmokers
Nonsmokers deserve 6 or more additional vacation days
- 16.4% of smokers vs. 13.6% nonsmokers
The estimated 38 million adults in the U.S. that still smoke may feel it's discriminatory to not be allowed to take smoke breaks throughout the work day. After all, what an employee does during a lunch or rest break should not be controlled by an employer.
Are workers legally entitled to a smoke break?
Under federal law, employers are not required to compensate or provide rest breaks or meal breaks to employees. Employers are only required to pay employees for breaks that last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, that is if an employer allows breaks. Simply put, federal law only requires that an employer pay for a certain time period, but it does not require employers to offer break time.
Some states do require employers to provide a meal break, rest break, or both. You can click here to view a list of specific states and their requirements.
What should employers do?
It’s a sticky situation for all parties involved. While there is no law for paid smoking breaks, many employers provide time for these smoke breaks without offering the same amount of time to nonsmoking employees.
Katherine De Souza, partner and head of employment at Marriott Harrison answered this question in an interview with the following response:
"Employers should adopt a policy on smoking in the workplace and amend their discipline policy to cover smoking breaks and smoking in a non-designated area. If employers wish to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, in the workplace, they should ensure that their smoking and discipline policies expressly cover e-cigarettes. As e-cigarettes produce a vapour when a liquid nicotine cartridge is heated, the use of e-cigarettes may not be covered by a prohibition on smoking."
The question for HR now is when is an employee crossing the line, taking too many or too long of breaks, and are these breaks affecting a team’s productivity? Does this mean that nonsmoking employees are justified in asking for additional vacation days?
This blog was written by Ally Edwards, Marketing Guru at PeopleGuru. This post may not be copied or published without PeopleGuru's express written permission.