Less than 5% of organisations have a gambling at work policy. One problem gambler in a position of trust can bring down an entire organisation – Nick Leeson being an example when he brought down Barings Bank. Whilst Leeson’s case was extreme it is not uncommon and certainly highlights that companies need to be much more proactive in tackling gambling as a part of their risk assessment.
A Gambling at Work policy would encompass the HR, CSR and Compliance departments, especially for FCA regulated businesses. The gambling at work policy can be further enhanced by educating and training senior and middle management into ways of identifying problem gambling. Typically problem gambling at work can lead to many negative “warning signs” such as misuse of time, mysterious disappearances, long lunches, late to work, leaving early from work, unusual vacation patterns, unexplained sick leave, internet and telephone misuse, etc.
New forms of gambling, such as gambling via the internet or mobile phones at work, mean that many of these warning signs are more difficult to pick up without the correct professional training. However, just because problem gambling is difficult to spot doesn’t mean that managers should not include it in risk assessments and/or planning procedures. Listed below are some practical steps that can be taken to help minimise the potential problem.
- Acknowledge that gambling is a serious problem. Gambling (in every form) has not been viewed as an occupational issue at any serious level. Managers, in conjunction with Human Resources, Compliance and CSR Departments need to ensure they are aware of the issue and the potential risks it can bring to both their employees and the whole organisation. They also need to be aware that for employees who deal with finances, the consequences for the organization, should that person be a problem gambler can be great.
- Raise awareness of gambling issues at work. This can be done through e-mail circulation, leaflets, and posters on general notice boards. More effective ways would be training and education through a professional consultancy.
- Ask employees to be vigilant. Problem gambling at work can have serious repercussions not only for the individual but also for those employees who befriend a problem gambler, and the organisation itself. Fellow staff members need to know the signs and symptoms of problem gambling. Employee behaviours such as asking to borrow money all the time might be indicative of a gambling problem.
- Give employees access to diagnostic gambling checklists. Make sure that any literature or poster within the workplace includes a self-diagnostic checklist so that employees can check themselves to see if they might have (or be developing) a gambling problem.
- Check internet “bookmarks” of your staff. In some jurisdictions across the world, employers can legally access the e-mails and internet content of their employees. One of the easiest checks is to look at an employee’s list of “bookmarked” websites. If staff are gambling on the internet regularly, internet gambling sites are almost certainly likely to be bookmarked.
- Develop a “Gambling at Work” policy. Employers should develop their own gambling policies by liaison between Human Resource Services and one of the few professional problem gambling consultancies. A risk assessment policy in relation to gambling is also helpful.
- Give support to identified problem gamblers. Most large organisations have counselling services and other forms of support for employees who find themselves in difficulties. Problem gambling needs to be treated empathetically (like other addictions such as alcoholism). Employee support services must also be educated about the potential problems of workplace gambling. Gambling addiction is a unique illness.
Managers clearly need to have their awareness of the issue raised, and once this has happened, they need to raise awareness among the work force. Gambling is a social issue, a health issue and an occupational issue. Although not currently high on the list for most employers, the issues highlighted here suggest that it should be and fast!