Canadian employers may want to take a cue from a Japanese firm to encourage their smoker employees to kick the habit.
Tokyo marketing firm Piala Inc. offered six extra vacation days to non-smoking employees in September – these days would make up for all the smoking breaks taken by their colleagues.
Rob Cunnigham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, applauded the move and said offering vacation incentives for not smoking is an innovative way to get the smokers to stop, reported CTV News.
While some employers in Canada offer on-site smoking cessation programs or a health incentive to join a sporting activity or gym, the extra vacation days are unheard of, Cuningham said.
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, he said. Some 5.2 million Canadians smoke.
But the Conference Board of Canada found, in a 2013 study, that each smoker costs an employer more than $4,200 in productivity each year on average.
Of this, unauthorized smoking breaks cost $3,800, while $400 is lost on increased absenteeism, CTV reported.
On average, each daily smoker and recent quitter took almost 2.5 more sick days in 2010 compared to employees who have never smoked, the conference board found.
The study concluded that the workplace is the most effective place to combat smoking, especially since employers have a strong productivity motivation to help employees kick the habit.
“Employers have a real incentive to encourage their employers to be non-smokers to increase productivity and to have this positive bonus…is a great idea,” Cunningham told CTV News.
Smoking is prevalent in Japan. According to the World Health Organization, 21.7 per cent of adults smoke – about 40 per cent for men in their 30s.
The Japanese government, however, is facing international pressure to cut down on public smoking before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesperson with Piala, told CTV News that 78 employees are taking advantage of the bonus vacation days.
Four people have quit the company since the policy took effect Sept. 1.
The idea came from an employee complaint to the CEO, Matsushima wrote in an email. “He pointed out substantive daily work hours are different between smokers who leave their desks frequently and non-smokers.”
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