A Japanese marketing firm is giving non-smokers an additional six vacation days per year.

Piala Inc. originally got the idea from employees who complained their smoking co-workers took more breaks and were less productive as a result.

“One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems,” Hirotaka Matsushima, the corporate planning director for the marketing firm, told the Telegraph.

Have your say: Should smokers get more time off?

While smoking has been on the decline for the past few decades, in 2016, 16.9 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and older smoked occasionally or daily, according to Statistics Canada. That amounts to roughly 5.2 million people.

“There are a lot of organizations that want to compensate good health but there are not a lot that are doing it right now,” says Marie-Hélène Brassard, a senior consultant at Normandin Beaudry in Montreal. An additional six days seems like a significant amount of time and salary for a single issue, she adds, noting companies should ensure they aren’t creating an atmosphere of envy that could create a contentious work environment.

When pushing for workplace wellness, Canadian employers often choose the carrot rather than the stick, says Karley Middleton, a wellness consultant with HUB International Ltd. in Winnipeg. She notes punishment-based systems can be challenging to enforce, increase administrative burdens and adversely affect employee morale.

Read: Medavie Blue Cross adds smoking-cessation services to chronic disease benefit

“So I think this adjustment to policy allows for a refreshing way to reward healthy behaviours while not directly punishing unhealthy behaviours like smoking.”

Middleton believes it’s not up to the employer to “make their employees healthy” but she suggests they should focus instead on providing opportunities for workers to make progress. “This is a perfect example of that principle.”

She also concedes that “smokers may find this policy unfair but until this policy became reality, the poor morale fostered by the continuously growing population of non-smokers could no longer be ignored by employers, either, especially when many employers are trying to sell employees on the culture of wellness, starting with workplace policies.”

Employees increasingly value rewards that give them increased flexibility, adds Middleton. “Additional vacation is a great way to give employees the gift of time to help balance their work-life responsibilities and also reinforce their decision to not smoke.”

Read: Staples Canada’s $750 incentive to quit smoking

Given the debate over the issue, what do you think about offering non-smokers extra time off? Should other employers follow Piala’s lead or would such a move be unfair to non-smokers? Have your say in this week’s online poll.

Copyright © 2021 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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Joe Nunes:

Smoker/non-smoker bifurcation is probably a weak proxy for ‘productivity’. If we want to reward productivity then we should try to measure it more directly.

Further, there is no real reason to reward productivity with increased flexibility. Everyone needs more flexibility and companies should provide as much as they can. There is no better way to reward greater productivity of a worker than with hard cold cash.

Monday, November 13 at 11:36 am |


That is a lot of time and what do we then do when obesity, diabetes, strokes and other health issues that people don’t have start to come to the reward table too.

Monday, November 13 at 12:18 pm |

Rick Weston:

If your a manager or a smoker the answer is at “Workplace Smoking: It’s not a Problem”

Monday, November 13 at 4:38 pm |

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