There is no legal obligation for employers to provide support to help employees quit smoking. However with the opportunity to reduce sickness and boost productivity, could smoking cessation support be the ‘missing benefit’ that many HR departments are overlooking? The main question is, can employers support smokers to quit?
The economic costs of tobacco use in the UK are estimated at over £13 billion per year. This includes workplace absenteeism and loss of productivity due to illness and smoking breaks. Smoking breaks at work alone are said to cost British businesses as much £8.4 billion a year in lost productivity of smokers.
Even a low percentage of smoking employees can be costly, and the the benefits to employers in helping employees to quit are significant. There are proven links between smoking and absenteeism in working adults. Current smokers have a 33% increase in risk of absenteeism (1) compared to non-smokers.
What employers can do to support employees
Quitting smoking can be a challenge for even the most motivated of people. Smokers who get the right support are 3 times as likely to quit successfully as those using willpower alone. However, seeking help from your GP or local stop smoking services can feel like a big step to take. This often comes with the added barrier of having to take time off work to do so.
Smoking cessation support is one of the more tangible benefits that employers can offer.
It demonstrates company-wide improvements to employee wellbeing and encourages a healthier lifestyle. It reduces friction amongst non-smoking employees who may resent the extra breaks that smokers take. Of course it also promotes a smoke-free workplace.
So what can employers be doing to help employees quit? Guidance form the National Institute of Clinical Health and Excellence (2) (NICE) advises employers should:
- Make information on local stop-smoking support easily available at work. Include details on the type of help available. Tell people when, where and how to access the service and publicise these interventions.
- Be responsive to individual needs and preferences of employees. If feasible, and if there is sufficient demand, provide on-site stop-smoking support.
Allow staff to attend stop-smoking support during working hours without loss of pay.
- Negotiate a smokefree workplace policy with employees or their representatives. This should:
- State whether or not smoking breaks may be taken during working hours and, if so, where, how often and for how long.
- Include a stop-smoking policy developed in collaboration with staff and their representatives.
- Direct people who wish to stop smoking to local stop-smoking support.
Stop smoking support for employees to quit
Receiving the right support to quit can be life changing for a smoker. At Totally Wicked we recently launched our own in-house programme to support smokers on the Totally Wicked team to kick the habit for good. Guided by our fully trained NCSCT support team, our first group of 13 took part in a 30 day programme last autumn. Our Totally Wicked Quitters did amazingly, with 11 of 13 now no longer smoking at all at 4 weeks. The remaining 2 had cut down a lot (all by more than half), and were well on the way to setting themselves a quit date. We have also had a couple of staff members that missed the first opportunity, but we will of course be giving help, advice and support to help them on the way to a smoke free future.
For 13 years our mission at Totally Wicked has been simple – to empower smokers to transform their lives. As part of our ambition to make quitting accessible and achievable for every smoker, we offer a free-of-charge service to employers looking to help their employees quit smoking. We’ll bring our ‘quit smoking squad’ to you, offering weekly support sessions to empower smokers on your team to kick the habit for good. If you or your employer could benefit from this service, contact us for a chat. Can employers support smokers to quit? Why wait?