19 January 2012

Workplaces clamp down on smokers

Employers in the US and Germany are taking anti-smoking policies to the next level, by removing smoke-breaks and refusing smoker job applications.


Tighter regulations around smoking have South African workers heading out of their office buildings in order comply with the country’s Tobacco Products Control Act.

What’s more is that the act also empowers employers to ban smoking at the workplace and ever-more companies are implementing smoke-free building policies to regulate the use of tobacco products on their premises.

One step further

HealthDay News reports that the Cleveland Clinic, along with a growing number of other US hospitals, is turning away job applications from people who smoke. This move has flamed debates between workers’ rights organisations and health advocates over whether denying jobs based on tobacco use is just. The former group argues that it equates to employment discrimination, while the anti-tobacco group says that turning away smokers reduces health care costs and absenteeism, and also sets a healthy example. Non-nicotine hiring policies are legal in many US states.

It's another way to get the message across that smoking is bad for your health, pulmonologist Dr Aditi Satti, director of the smoking cessation program at Temple University Hospital (US) told HealthDay News. But it's complicated, she said. "I think a pretty fine line runs between public health and personal liberties. Whether or not this is going to be an incentive, time will tell."

No more smoke breaks

A German business owner has announced that it is banning staff from taking smoking breaks. This move, he argues, will improve productivity and improve the health of staff.

Mario Ohoven, president of the BVMW Federation of Mid-Sized Businesses told the German newspaper Bild that “that smoking breaks cost employers money.”

Ohoven argues that every employee who takes three smoke breaks daily, each five minutes long, costs an employer on average well over 2000 Euros (more than R20 000) annually in lost work.

Another German business owner, Ursula Frerichs told Bild that smoking breaks discriminate against non-smokers who keep working while smokers are unproductive for the duration of their breaks. Frerich maintains that many employers in Scandinavian nations have successfully implemented a "smoke-free work time" policy.

However, representatives from the nation’s trade union denied the economy was hurt by Germany's smoking minority, adding that more breaks are needed for employees in stressful jobs.

(Health-e News, January 2012)


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