Some Canadian companies considering giving non-smokers more vacation time

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Should non-smokers get extra vacation time?
WATCH: Should non-smokers get extra vacation time? – Nov 4, 2017

A Japanese company is giving its non-smoking staff an additional six days of holiday a year to make up for the time smokers take for cigarette breaks.

The company introduced the new paid leave allowance in September after non-smokers complained they were working more hours than their colleagues who smoked.

Hirotaka Matsushima, the corporate planning director for the marketing firm Piala Inc., said overall the decision has been “pretty popular.” There is a total of 120 staff members at the firm and he said about two-thirds of them don’t smoke.

Here in Canada, it is sparking a debate on whether a similar policy should be allowed at the workplace.

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Trevor Carr, president of Noise Digital, a digital media company based in Toronto and Vancouver, said he keeps hearing more and more about the “vacation for non-smokers policy” and said this is something he would consider for his company.

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“We have a few smokers in the office, but I’m not sure if they burn more break time than non-smokers, but I would consider it as a reward for non-smokers and an incentive for smokers to quit for sure,” he said.

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Elizabeth Keyes, who lives in Toronto said she is also all for it.

“My dad has worked at a factory for over 30 years now, and it is his pet peeve that smokers are able to go out and takes breaks,” she said. “And what he does is hard labour. While he’s inside working they are outside taking 15- to 30-minute breaks every day. Yet they get paid the same.”

She added it’s not just about the smoking break, but it’s also about getting to socialize with co-workers.

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But then there are those who don’t believe in the policy.

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Maja Witter, the technical director at Playground Inc., a digital media company in Toronto, said the policy the Japanese company adopted seems “shame and guilt-based.”

“It will not inspire any smoker to quit but only foster resentment,” she said.

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She said her company encourages team members to go for walks to get fresh air so they can “come back to a problem with a new perspective.”

“We don’t consider that to be lost productivity,” she said.

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Although smoking rates have been falling for decades, a survey released by Statistics Canada in 2017 found 17.7 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and older smoked either daily or occasionally. That’s around 5.3 million smokers in the country.

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Men aged 20 to 34 made up the largest proportion of tobacco users, with more than one in four reporting that they smoked.

Do smokers end up getting more time off?

On average, each smoker costs an employer around $4,200 in productivity each year, according to 2013 statistics by the Conference Board of Canada. The study also found $3,800 of that total was due to unauthorized smoke breaks and $414 due to increased absences.

Each daily smoker and recent quitter took almost 2.5 more sick days in 2010 compared to employees who have never smoked, according to the board.

— With files from the Associated Press

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