Norfolk

Norfolk council workers lose pay to smoke

Workers at a district council in Norfolk must now clock off and back on if they take a cigarette break.

Staff at Breckland Council will no longer be paid for the time they spend smoking after the proposals were given the go-ahead.

Simon Clark, from smokers' lobby group Forest, said everyone was entitled to a break during work.

The group described the plan as "tyrannical", but council management, unions and workers backed the change.

No big issue

The council said the move was aimed at making the issue of smoke breaks fairer for individuals who did not smoke.

Management had not established a formal smoking policy three years after a national smoking ban in work places and public venues had been introduced.

Earlier this year staff were asked in a questionnaire whether they smoked at work and if they currently clocked in and out when they went for a cigarette.

The council discovered a fifth of workers were taking time out of their day for a cigarette break and of those just over a third never clocked out or put the breaks down on their time-sheet.

Council leader William Nunn said that was why things had to change but he was not prepared for the amount of interest it would generate.

"I was flabbergasted that it got on television and fronted an Olympics bulletin," he said.

"This came out when most public bodies and private companies were enforcing this policy.

"Only about 20% of our staff smoke so we don't think it's going to be a big issue."

The council also denied claims that the policy had been introduced so it could increase productivity and save money.

Six month trial

Staff work to a "flexitime system" which means they take breaks at different times and if they go out to buy a sandwich they clock in and out by swiping their cards.

The new policy will be in place for a six month trial period, but lobby group Forest believes it is the wrong way to go.

A spokesman said: "Many smokers believe having the occasional cigarette allows them to refocus.

"It is a moment of contemplation that refreshes them when they get back to their desks.

"Everyone gets through the day in different ways.

"Some take coffee breaks others go out for a cigarette."

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