After employees of a Japanese company complained that their co-workers were taking additional time off for cigarette breaks, the employer granted them an extra 6 days of paid holiday per year. The non-smokers claimed that they were working more than their co-workers who smoked. The company, Tokyo-based Piala Inc., only introduced the non-smoking perk in September, but employees have been quick to make use of it.
According to Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesperson for the company, “One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems.” He explains, “Our CEO saw the comment and agreed, so we are giving non-smokers some extra time off to compensate.”
Resentment among the non-smoking employees grew because the company office is located on the 29th floor of an office block in the Ebisu district of Tokyo. Those who smoke would need to take the busy elevator down to the basement level, meaning each cigarette break would last an average of 15 minutes per smoker.
The CEO of Piala Inc, Takao Asuka, says, “I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion.” Since this system has taken effect, 30 of the company’s 120 employees have taken additional days off.
Mr. Matsushima, who is a non-smoker himself said that he has used his additional days off to take a holiday with his family to a hot springs resort for a couple of days. He adds that due to this new incentive, many people have been encouraged to quit smoking.
According to World Health Organization statistics, 21.7 percent of Japanese adults smoke. This figure is higher among men and older generations.
To combat this statistic, many Japanese companies have increased their efforts to guard their employees against the negative impacts of secondhand smoke. Lawson Inc., for instance, which is an operator of 24-hour convenience stores, banned smoking in its head office and regional offices in June.