Non-Smokers Do Less Work

I am a non-smoker.

That looks like I'm using this column as a dating profile but I mention my smoke-free status to declare a bias about this news story. A company boss in Swindon has given his non-smoking employees an extra four days of annual leave.

As a non-smoker, I like this. I realise that might make some smokers get angry with me but I think I can outrun them.

Don Bryden runs a training company and he said he noticed some smokers take five breaks a day at around ten minutes each. That's nearly an hour off a day. Just under five hours a week. 240 hours across a 48-week year. It's 30 days, so they're still 24 days up on the deal.

I have had this conversation with smoking colleagues (they were colleagues who smoked, I'm not saying they were sexy) and a lot have said it's an addiction and therefore not their fault.

Someone who can't give up the booze doesn't get to stand outside the front door getting their hip flask out for ten minutes. Gamblers don't have paid FOBT breaks. That argument is a little weak.

One smokers once said if I wanted to go and stand outside the office entrance for no reason I could and therefore it's my fault for not taking the option. No I couldn't. I'd look like a right oddball and besides, it smells of smoke out there.

One colleague said smoking made him more productive. If he had to sit there craving a cigarette he'd get less work done. Well, having an afternoon nap would make me more productive but I'm sure regular kips under my desk would be mentioned in my annual review.

It will be interesting to see how this story pans out. Will it be seen as a form of discrimination? Is it OK to give more days off to some members of staff because of their habits? Does that mean we can dock the pay of slow-walkers? (I would be in favour of that too.) Can we take holiday time away from people who spend ages in the toilets? (I'm against that. Don't ask.)

If your company brings in a rule that benefits the non-smokers you could always quit. The job or the habit, but we live in an age of flexible working where employers get in trouble for preferring staff members who have no distractions from work.

My biggest worry is that it will end with industrial action. If smokers form picket lines, standing outside their place of work instead of being inside doing their jobs, how will we tell the difference?

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