According to a recent study by Tobacco Control, smoke breaks are expensive not just for the employee that has to pay for the rising cost of cigarette packs, but for the employer as well. $5,800 per year for every smoker is the cost a business must pay for smoke breaks and the health issues that come with years of smoking.
NPR quotes Ohio State professor Micah Berman on the findings of this interesting study: “The smoking breaks added up a lot more than we expected. I am not sure what impact that is going to have on people making decisions starting to smoke or quitting. Most people start to smoke when they’re minors— not at a time when they’re thinking about the future health of insurance premiums.”
The average Washington (and throughout the United States) employee will take five fifteen-minute smoke breaks during an eight-hour workday. Some take more and some take less. The $5,800 figure represents the work lost during this time as well as the additional healthcare costs that come with smoking. Here’s a look at the financial impact smoking has on a business bottom line:
· $517 more in sick days due to health problems associated with smoking
· $462 annually for lower productivity—this represents the time between the cigarettes right before an employee needs to take another break.
Washington, like many other states does not have a requirement in place that demands their employees be given smoke breaks at all. That being said, breaks in general are important for employees to recharge and if an employee chooses to smoke, it is a personal decision what he or she does with this “free time” at work. What is interesting is how this study may affect employers and how they choose to handle employees that smoke. It is not uncommon for an employee to charge higher health care premiums for smokers. After all, if the employee were to get their own insurance, they would run into the same problem.
If you are a Washington employer looking for ways to handle unique employee situations such as smoking, you may want to get in touch with aWashington employment lawyer to discuss your options on how to best handle this scenario.
One of the easiest things to do is make sure that whatever policy you decide to put in place, it is in writing and applies to everyone uniformly. For instance, don’t create a no smoking policy for everyone but high-level employees.
Creating a smoke-free workplace is becoming an increasingly popular decision by companies big and small throughout the state of Washington. Whether this is a financial decision, a health decision or a little bit of both, working with an attorney can help make sure that your policies and implementation are legal. There is a way to allow for personal needs as well as business needs while keeping everyone happy.