Blog: Paid leave for non-smokers: Are we ready for this?


Paid leave for non-smokers: Are we ready for this?

While a Japanese firm has given 6 days of paid leave to its non-smoking employees, we start the debate to see if this is a possibility in the Indian work environment.
Paid leave for non-smokers: Are we ready for this?

A Japanese firm Piala Inc has raked up a debate after it has started giving 6-day paid leaves to non-smokers in their organization. This came after the employees who do not smoke or don’t take smoke-breaks complained after minutely calculating the time a smoker takes when he/she goes out for a smoking break – 15 minutes.

The non-smoking staff dropped a message to the organization’s suggestion box saying since the office which was located on the 29th floor, a smoking break was lasting about 15 minutes, while they had to work extra minutes.

The organization took note of this, and decided to extend paid leaves for non-smokers. 

The CEO, Takao Asuka, said, "I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion."

Will this trend work in India? 

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-17 (GATS-2), published by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, while the consumer base of tobacco users in India is 28.6% of adults, the adult cigarette consumer base is only 4%. Despite accounting for 17% of the world population, tobacco consumption in the form of Cigarettes in India is less than 2% of global consumption. 

In India, smoking breaks or ‘sutta’ breaks are not just for smokers – non-smokers readily join their colleagues who go for smoke-breaks. 

On conditions of anonymity, an HR manager at a law firm said that while they cannot intrude on an employee’s personal space to tell him to quit smoking, from organization’s perspective they do get into campaigns regarding anti-smoking.

And the employees are entitled to get an hour break if they are working for 8 hours a day – excluding the one-hour break. As per the Factories Act 1948, every adult (a person who has completed 18 years of age) cannot work for more than 48 hours in a week and not more than 9 hours in a day. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 also specifies about the working hours under the rules 20 to 25 that the number of work hours in a day should not exceed 9 hours for an adult.

Smoke break affects productivity; And what about tea breaks?

Shilpa S, a self-employed professional in the textile sector said, “in India, our work time extends to even at home so HR coming up with paid leaves for non-smokers in India might just boomerang. Also, a lot of time a good smoke break is required to socialize with peers apart from the fact that it gives a person sometime to move beyond the desk – which is a critical aspect for employee well-being.”

A pertinent question which also raged on social media is that whether surfing the internet while at work will also be considered equivalent to taking smoke-breaks. 

The second-cousin of small breaks after smoke is tea break. Research has found that “the process of making and drinking a cup of tea boosts mood and tended to enhance creative problem solving. The work was carried out by researchers for the Unilever food giant, which makes the Lipton tea brand and is opening a string of tea shops under the T2 brand, however it has been independently reviewed and accepted by a scientific journal.”  The study also mentioned, “the simple process of getting up from a desk to take a break and have a cup of tea may lead to a longer improvement in mood and well-being.”

So what do you think? Do frequent breaks like these help in doing your work better or do they hinder your workplace productivity? 

Do mention your thoughts on this in the comments section below as we take a small break to continue the debate on what affects productivity and whether paid leaves for non-smokers can be a good way to appreciate good health habits in employees.

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Topics: Watercooler, Life @ Work

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