Belgian authorities are clamping down on civil servants who nip out of the office for a smoke break.
18-thousand staff who work for the French-speaking Walloon regional government have been told to clock out when they pop out, and the time will be docked from their working day.
Smokers are fuming.
One employee said: ‘It’s never been demonstrated that there was a big productivity difference between a smoker and a non-smoker. I don’t think that’s what counts, a conscientious worker, even if he is away 5 or 10 minutes to smoke, will make sure his job is done by the end of the day. I’d say it’s a little insignificant.’
Walloon administration official Hugo Poliart said: ‘There’s no rule saying that employees need to clock out when they go to smoke, but there is a rule that says they need to clock out when they leave the building, whatever the reason. Whether it’s to eat an apple or to take a ten minute walk, they also need to clock out.’
One official told a Belgian newspaper that the clocking out rule has been in force since August but now staff are being told they could be disciplined for smoking where they can be seen by the public, because bosses believe it gives a bad image.