Smokers absenteeism costs employers billions a year

We thought this story in WSB (Workplace Savings & Benefits) about the costs of smokers' absenteeism in the UK was worth reporting here, given the vast amounts of time and money lost due to smoking.

"Smokers are a third more likely to be absent from work than non-smokers – and cost the UK economy £1.4bn ($2.25bn USD) last year as a result, a study by British university researchers finds.   A new report which is due to be published in the journal Addiction, found employees who smoked were absent on average 2.74 more days per year than non-smokers.   It concluded: "The results of this systematic review implicate that quitting smoking may reduce absenteeism and result in substantial cost-savings for employers."

Co-author Stephen Weng said: "This piece of work shows there is a big financial impact by smoking on absence. Helping employees quit will help save money in the long run."   Workplace smoking cessation programmes were now a focus of his team, he added.   The review was carried out by Nottingham and York university academics and looked at 29 studies from North America, Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Israel.   As well as smokers, it found increased absence rates extended to employees who had given up the habit - former smokers were 14% more likely to be absent from work than non-smokers.   Gender, however, had little impact, with the risk and duration of absenteeism due to smoking similar in men and women.

Action on Smoking and Health research manager Amanda Sandford said employers could make an effort to reduce absence by providing workplace support to smokers who wanted to quit: "Study after study shows the majority of smokers would like to quit but find it hard to do so."   Creating disincentives for smoking such as banning it in the office grounds or monitoring the time employees took off work for smoking breaks was another possible tactic, she added."