Days Off in Lieu of Smoking
Eagle-eyed readers may have seen the recent article relating to KCJ Training and Employment Solutions, a Swindon company which plans to reward non-smokers by giving them additional annual leave than they would otherwise receive, and more than smokers receive. The amount of the additional holiday will be roughly commensurate with the amount of time each non-smoker saves by not having smoking breaks. The employer wished to incentivise its employees to quit smoking, which it considers will make for a healthier and more productive workplace. In an ironic twist, the initiative was introduced by the Managing Director, who is a self-declared smoker. The initiative has been met with broad approval by all stakeholders, focusing as it does upon the positive rather than the negative. No doubt the government will be pleased as it ambitiously targets the eradication of cigarette smoking in England by 2030. Does the practice breach any employment laws? The measure positively rewards non-smokers rather than penalises smokers, and so the imposition of the measure does not reduce any employee’s holiday entitlement. Accordingly, it not a breach of their employment contract. There is no directly discriminatory angle as the measure is not based upon a “protected characteristic” such as race, age or sex, and no employee is treated less favourably because of that protected characteristic. It could be deemed to be indirectly discriminatory if the measure, while applying to all staff, had the practical negative effect on one particular demographic, although it is likely that it would be saved in this regard by being a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Meaby & Co are lawyers experienced in all aspects of regulatory and employment issues. Should you require advice on any aspect of employment law, including the above, please contact Chris Marshall on 0207 703 5034.