Workers ignite

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Groups of jaded employees hanging around outside office buildings might be a familiar sight in New York, but has it really come to this here in London? As our photographs reveal, it seems so. The stressed office worker looking shifty and embarrassed in his rumpled shirt, having a cigarette - on the pavement - is becoming a more frequent sight.

These dejected puffers came to the attention of Alec Reed, chairman and founder of Reed Personnel Services. Intrigued by what seemed to be a growing trend, he commissoned a survey of smoking policies of 731 companies nationwide.

The survey, carried out this summer, found that 86 per cent of the companies have no smoking or limited smoking policies and 54 per cent have special smoking areas. When it came to larger companies (employing 1,000 or more people), 94 per cent had no smoking or limited smoking policies.

'The implications of our survey are that this is a rapidly growing phenomenon,' says Katy Nicholson of Reed Personnel Services. 'Most of these companies have implemented these smoking policies in the past 18 months.'

Worse news for smokers is that a Mori poll commissioned by the Health Education Authority in April found that 37 per cent of companies surveyed had banned smoking in their buildings - outright.

These stringent bans can backfire. Groups of workers standing on the pavement smoking is bad PR; it makes employers look like crude taskmasters.

'Bans don't actually stop staff from smoking; people just end up smoking on the doorstep, which is bad for company image,' says Marjorie Nicholson, of Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco).

'Companies have to accept human nature for what it is. People will always sneak off anyway and smoke where they're not supposed to. This could in turn create fire hazards. In fact, banning smoking in offices completely is proving to be more trouble than it's worth.'

The reasons for the strict smoking policies vary. Some employers admit that their limited smoking policies countered fears of future legal action against them; one even said that a no smoking policy had reduced its insurance premium. Most, though, felt cheated of the time employees wasted smoking. Interestingly, only 8 per cent of companies in the South (and none in the North) were worried about the possible dangers of passive smoking.

Marjorie Nicholson is adamant. 'Whether an employee smokes or not is not up to an employer to decide. If an employer can interfere with one aspect of someone's private life, where do you draw the line? What's to stop them from complaining next if an employee is a bit overweight?

'This is a workers' rights issue where the reach of the employer can, in this economic climate, go beyond the contract of employment.'

Smoker friendly Smoker Unfriendly Companies with anti-

smoking policies

Cinema Fumee, Brixton

The Coronet, Notting Hill

Simpsons, The Strand

most casinos

McDonalds

parks

streets

Whiteleys

London Underground

buses

most black cabs

Liverpool St station

National Express Coaches

most cinemas and theatres

art galleries/museums

Cranks restaurants

the chamber of the

House of Commons

Nat West bank

The BBC

Metropolitan Police

The Body Shop

Marks & Spencer

British Telecom

Midland Bank

Cadbury's

Royal Mail

United Biscuits

Shell Oil

(Photographs omitted)

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