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‘Them and us mentality’: Giving extra leave to non-smokers will damage workplace culture

3AW Mornings

Giving non-smokers four extra days of annual leave over smokers would not work in Australia because it would fracture workplace relations, an expert says.

The suggestion comes from a logistics firm in the UK, which is offering non-smokers extra time off to balance the time spent when other staff go out for a cigarette.

Dr Lindsay McMillan told 3AW’s Heidi Murphy the biggest concern is not productivity, but accidentally creating a divide among coworkers.

“Within Australia it’s ok to do a coffee break because you tend to do it with others,” he said.

“Smokers tend to be more isolated these days.

“It immediately creates a them and us mentality within the workplace and I think that’s damaging to the culture of a work environment.”

He believes smokers are made to feel like second rate citizens already and rewarding staff extra-leave simply for not smoking adds to the discrimination.

Dr McMillan says the bigger question is whether it is appropriate to burden employers by saying they are responsible for whether people smoke.

“Companies are now responsible for things like mental health, work-life balance, loneliness, and relationships,” he explained.

“It’s putting another burden on the employer to start to say they are responsible for people smoking or not smoking and discriminating in the workplace.”

However, he did concede there is room for employers to encourage workers to look after their own health when appropriate, such as during performance appraisals.

3AW Mornings