Smoking breaks cost employers thousands of pounds, claims BHF figures

For each full-time member of staff that smokes during working hours, employers could be losing £1,815 a year.

That's the shocking conclusion of a report by the British Heart Foundation, carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which suggests one-in-five of the UK's workforce spend 4.3 minutes of each working hour on a smoking break.

In addition, smokers take "70 per cent of an extra day's sick leave every year more than non-smokers" according to analysis from the CEBR, cited by guardian.com.

With the annual No Smoking Day fast approaching - March 12 according to kentonline.co.uk - employers are being asked to do as much possible to help personnel kick their addiction.

While a spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said employers should take a "common sense" approach to smoking breaks, Lisa Purcell - manager of the BHF's health at work programme - was much more adamant that smoking should remain a serious concern for employers.

Purcell commented on the figures: "This research shows that not only is smoking extremely damaging to people's heart health, it's also damaging to the health of businesses at a time when every penny counts. Both should be a huge concern for business owners and managers.

"For many workers, smoking has become part of their daily routine at work, which makes it extremely difficult to break," she added.