Workplace Rights: Wager Slaves

Statistics from the Gambling Commission suggest that as many as 378,000 people in Britain are hooked on gambling, with nearly one in 10 online gamblers having an addiction problem. Lifting restrictions on TV and radio gambling ads is likely to stoke the boom in betting websites, presenting risks for employers who allow their staff internet access. Lost working hours apart, there have been reports of employees defrauding companies of massive sums to fund their gambling habit. How should employers tackle the issue? Their trump card is to implement an IT policy spelling out the limits of personal internet use. Many organisations block or expressly prohibit access to gambling, pornography and other websites, reserving the right to monitor their systems to check compliance. Staff should be told that online gambling at work will be treated as a disciplinary matter. An overhaul of financial procedures, setting tighter restrictions on signature of cheques and use of company credit cards, may also reduce exposure to gambling-related fraud. On a more sympathetic note, employers might offer support for those who gamble excessively - for example, an employee assistance programme, debt counselling or referral to a body such as Gamblers Anonymous.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail: employment@lewissilkin.com.

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