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Gambling problems lack workplace support

Up to 1.6 million people in the UK struggle with gambling according to Public Health England

Less than one in 10 (9%) workplaces have support policies for gambling issues, research by gambling charity GamCare has shown.

The research, released 6 June, revealed that far fewer people with gambling problems would feel confident talking to their employer about it, compared with speaking with their friends or family.

Just over a quarter (28%) of those who gamble at harmful levels said they would feel confident telling their employer about the rate they were gambling at. This compared with 57% who said they would tell their friends and 42% who would tell their family.

“Many people are wary of disclosing gambling harms because of the stigma, lack of understanding and fear of professional repercussions,” Katy Wilson, operations and business development lead at gambling charity Betknowmore, told HR magazine.

Employers have a duty of care for workers with gambling problems, Wilson added.

“Employers hold some responsibility for supporting employees with gambling, particularly because gambling harms have such a significant impact on an individual’s overall health and wellbeing,” she continued.

Not only does gambling impact employee wellbeing, but employers should understand which health conditions can contribute to gambling problems, explained Charlotte Reid, employment partner at law firm RPC.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Employers need to remember that there are many potential underlying reasons for a person's gambling addiction.”

Read more: Addictive behaviour in the workplace: how prepared are you?

Reid pointed to mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorders, as well as neurodivergent conditions that can lead to impulsive behaviour.

She added: “There are also various stress factors that can lead to gambling addiction, for example, a person's caring responsibilities, maybe a relationship breakdown, the cost of living, or work pressures.”

Employees can be impacted by others’ gambling problems too, explained professor Cary Cooper, psychologist and advisory board member at addiction rehabilitation centre Delamere.

He told HR magazine: “Other employees can be impacted by an individual’s out-of-control gambling, growing concerned for their colleagues or feeling as though their own relationship with betting is negatively affected.”

GamCare also showed 35% of people who were impacted by someone else’s gambling said they would feel confident telling their employer about the impact it was having on them, compared with 49% for family and 60% for friends. 

Employers should create a workplace culture where gambling does not impact employees, Cooper added.

He continued: “Creating a culture of tolerance and open communication in the workplace is crucial to ensure that something legal and socially acceptable such as gambling does not become a taboo subject.

“Activities such as office sweepstakes for events like Eurovision, the European Football Championship or the Grand National focus work conversation around gambling, which could trigger a relapse for anyone in recovery.

“Similar to alcohol, gambling is an enjoyable low-level social activity for many, so ensuring that this does not permeate into work life is important.”

Read more: HR guide to dealing with workplace substance abuse

Workplace gambling support should start with policies, Wilson advised.

She said: "The first thing that HR should do is to implement a gambling in the workplace policy, and then communicate this across the entire organisation."

Martin Bland, director of business development at workplace gambling consultancy EPIC global solutions, suggested employees across the organisation could be trained by people with lived experiences of gambling addiction.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "The most likely way to get people to open up is for them to realise that they’re not alone and that others have gone through what they’re currently experiencing.

"To do that, bringing in someone who has that lived experience of problem gambling to engage with staff and explain how they sought help is the perfect precursor to getting others to utilise the wellbeing resources or confidential support that companies put in place for their teams.”

YouGov surveyed 5,075 adults on behalf of GamCare between 29 January and 15 February 2024.