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June 18, 2021

Is not hiring smokers actually good for business?

There’s been a lot of rumbling recently over the legalities and ethics of employers implementing “no smokers” hiring policies as a means of promoting a healthy work environment and trimming group insurance premiums.

Estimates suggest that employees who smoke cost on average $3,396 more per year than non-smokers in lost productivity, higher absenteeism, and increased insurance.

At one Ottawa high-tech company, not only is there absolutely no smoking on company time, but employees aren't allowed to smoke in their off hours either.

“We drink. We swear. We don’t fucking smoke,” the company proudly declares on its values pages. Light up, and you can expect to hear about it pretty quickly. 

Larger corporations are following suit, it seems. In the US, a number of healthcare companies have instituted no-smoking policies as part of their recruiting strategies, with some going as far as to announce that they would concurrently implement nicotine testing as part of their hiring process.

But isn't that discriminatory? Perhaps, if you could argue that smoking is a disability, says benefits consultant Kim Siddall. But, although addiction to nicotine has been recognized as a disability under human rights legislation, opinions are divided.

"With health costs continually rising, one has to wonder whether no-smokers hiring policies will gain traction in coming years," she warns.

But other observers are more cautious.

"While an employer’s desire to reduce or eliminate smoking at the workplace is a noble pursuit, employers are advised to be aware of human rights concerns and avoid adopting policies that may constitute discrimination on the basis of disability under human rights legislation," warns Toronto lawyer Simoin Heath.

Rather than banning smokers altogether, Heath feels that offering smoking cessation programs at work is the more prudent way to go.

How are smokers treated where you work? Do they get hired? Or have they already been shown the door?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money






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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...