WHO would have thought that a simple idea could cause so much controversy?

When the manager of a small business in Stratton came up with an innovative way to reward his workers, he never expected that it would thrust him into the global spotlight.

Don Bryden of KCJ Training and Employment Solutions decided to give his non-smoking employees four extra days of annual leave to make up for the time that their smoking colleagues spend outside on cigarette breaks.

Smokers who quit the habit for an entire year would also be eligible for the extra holiday time. There is an

The Adver reported on this at the start of the year and it caused such a stir that he and his team attracted the attention of the national and international media.

This lead to Don being profiled in the tabloids, interviewed on the radio, becoming the main news item on Points West, having a chat on the BBC Breakfast sofa, and being discussed on Loose Women and The Jeremy Vine show.

News crews from as far afield as Canada, California and Australia called and FaceTimed him to talk about his new policy, and clips of his chats were broadcast in Bulgaria, Turkey and South Africa.

He estimates that his unexpected fame generated millions of reactions around the world.

Don said: “What a reaction! It was a humbling and incredible experience. I thought your article would be the end of it but it just kept growing and growing.

“Camera crews came into the office and filmed us and spoke to my team. I’m so flattered by the amount of people who have got in touch since the Adver story.

“The best thing was that everyone assumed I was a non-smoker but I’ve actually smoked for 32 years and when I revealed this, that killed any argument against my idea.

“I was so nervous before going on national breakfast TV - I had makeup put on for the first time in my life! - but Chris and Naga were so lovely and it went well.

“Naga suggested live on air that I lead by example and quit smoking - so I have! Fingers crossed I manage to keep it up.”

Polls carried out on-air suggested that the British public were broadly in favour of the policy, but others were less pleased and argued that it was discriminatory.

Don disagreed and instead suggested that a policy like the one he’s implemented becoming more widespread could help the British government reach its goal of making England smokefree by 2030.

He added: “On a more serious note, I’ve seen some really horrible comments online and a lot of people claiming I’m discriminating against smokers.

“I want to clarify that this is not the case. It has become an industry norm that smokers are given leniency to have excessive smoke breaks.

“If a non-smoker sat at his desk doing nothing for 10 minutes, he’d be told off, so if anything, it was the non-smokers being discriminated against. I was just trying to level the playing field and say enough is enough because this has been a big bugbear of mine for a long time.

“Some companies have gone even further. U-Haul in America don’t employ smokers, and parts of Canada have completely smokefree workplaces.

“It definitely hit a nerve. I’ve been in discussion with CEOs in London and one of the UK’s biggest employers about how feasible it is to implement and the HR aspects of it.

“I would like to receive feedback from HR professionals and get their thoughts. I said I wanted to start something and it looks like I have, which is brilliant.

“Half of my employees smoke and half don’t but all have been supportive of the idea.

“If you go one step further and implement a completely smoke-free policy, you need to support employees who smoke because it’s an addiction, you can’t just cut them off.

“This has generated a lot of excitement in the office but now I’ve got to get back to the graft.”