How can we cut down on employees' smoke breaks?

Question: How many cigarette breaks are too many cigarette breaks in an eight-hour workday? I think we need a smoke break policy of some kind, if only to keep productivity up. (Maybe we could even keep health care costs down!) Do any readers have such a policy? What unforeseen issues might come up if we crack down?—Anna, Miami


We allow all employees working a full day to take two fifteen minute breaks. If they choose to use them to smoke, so be it.
Smokers get no additional time at company expense.

I work for a large hospital and we went smoke free around a year ago. The company did offer help thru our employee health’s dept and lots of employees were upset but we can’t keep everyone happy. We have other hospital and supermarkets that went smoke free after my company did. They are only allowed to smoke on their lunch time and NOT in our facilities, its a policy now.

Creating a policy specific to smokers is asking for trouble. Stick with a generic break policy – the norm is 2 10-15 minute breaks per 8 hour shift – and enforce it equally.

We allow two ten minute break periods, plus a lunch break. Employees are allowed to smoke during these breaks but not on the premises. they may walk over to the park across the street. We also have offered to pay for them to attend a stop smoking class.

We are also a health care organization. We did away with official breaks to do away with smoking. We also stopped hiring smokers. Here’s our policy:

XXXX does not provide paid breaks under any circumstances, unless the employee is less than 18 years of age.

XXXX understands that employees may need a brief respite from their workstation, from time to time, during the day. Any such respite should be kept to less than 5 minutes in length and planned in such a way that they do not interfere with customer service or departmental productivity. Respite must be taken within the work location and may not include smoking. Employees who leave their workstation unattended or abuse the guidelines listed may be subject to disciplinary action.

Employees who have disabilities that require an exception to this policy may request such an exception from the Human Resources Manager. Unless otherwise stipulated by the Human Resources Manager, employees granted an exception will be expected to clock in and out for time missed and maintain their total number of scheduled hours.

1.Actions which require leaving the office area should be planned in conjunction with your lunch break. Exceptions must be approved in advance by your supervisor.
2.Leaving the premises without the approval of a supervisor or more often or for longer periods than the allowed amount will result in progressively more severe disciplinary action.
3.An unpaid meal break of 30 minutes is allowed. A supervisor must authorize extended lunch breaks and the workday must be extended by the amount of time missed over 30 minutes.

We also pay for smoking cessation aids and classes for any employee.


Wow, what state are you in Pat? Most states have mandatory break times. I think your policy is a bit much!

Hey Pat, If your in California, you have violated their labor laws, to say nothing of Federal Labor Standards. ” bit much”is putting it mildly. In all my years of working, I have never heard of such a strict policy. Glad I don’t work there.

Our company has prohibit smoking in the office however they have supplied a smoking room for smoker’s. We receive a one hour lunch break – no additional breaks are offered. But if an employee, rather smoker or non-smoker, chooses or needs to take a break they must make up the company time that they used. This is recorded by the time clock. Normally a person does not want to work over so break time has not been abused.

I must agree with the other responders that Pat’s organization has way to strict of a policy. I hope you checked your labor laws not to mention discrimination of not hiring a person because they smoke. I will not be surprised to hear about Pat’s organization on the news.

We also do not hire smokers and it is prefectly legal in our state, according to our attorneys. We even advertise it is a non-smoking environment – and we’re a construction company. We do have a few smokers working for us – grandfathered in – but we’re doing all we can to help them break the habit.