Harmful Gambling Workplace Charter Gathers Support

Author: Adam Heppell

Date: Tuesday 18th January 2022

2021 saw the continued success around activity to promote the Unite Harmful Gambling Workplace Charter (HGWC) and pleasing uptake for our accredited Level 2 ‘Bet You Can Help’ online course.

Numerous employers are now signed up to our HGWC as employers and workplaces continue to have an important role in raising awareness of the problems associated with gambling and the effects on both individuals and "affected others” -  their families.   In the UK, it is estimated that approximately 430,000 people are suffering from compulsive gambling – and for every gambler, there are 6-10 “affected others” (family, friends and workmates) impacted by their addiction.  This means 7% of adults, or 3.6 million people, report having been negatively affected by someone else’s gambling problem. 

The HGWC offers practical, evidence-based ways in which employers and trade unions can promote worker health and wellbeing to those experiencing gambling-related harms. It aims to help reduce sickness and absence and support those who want or need to change their relationship with gambling. In the past year, Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, which employs 7,000 people, plus Wigan Council which employs 4000 workers, have signed up to the HGWC.  

Unite’s accredited Level 2 online course, ‘Bet You Can Help’, delivered by Learn with Unite,  is another platform to raise awareness aimed at Unite reps, members and trade union professionals. The ‘Bet You Can Help’ (BYCH) training programme helps support individuals affected by, or at risk, of being affected by gambling-related harm. The course provides candidates with an understanding of the nature, concepts and impacts of harmful gambling and gambling-related harm. It enables them to identify and to signpost affected individuals to sources of reliable information, advice, guidance and support through services delivered via the National Gambling Treatment Service. The programme is accredited by The Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) and is evaluated by Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO).

It has proven popular. Over 200 workers and reps are now trained on the online course. Moreover, the CPD sessions have seen over 500 attendees. More examples of the support in communities in the last year are the drafting of a Unite-Beacon Counselling Trust Harmful Gambling Toolkit for the Wales TUC. This was supported at a Harmful Gambling TUC Fringe event at which Paul Nowak (TUC Deputy GS) signed the HGWC Developing a TUC Toolkit and Harmful Gambling e-note.

The business case for supporting employees in making healthier gambling choices is compelling. A healthier workforce has a positive impact on the productivity and sustainability of organisations. It also benefits society as a whole, by reducing health and social care costs and the human costs of ill-health.  Problematic gambling makes a considerable contribution to workplace absence. This has a significant cost to business and the economy. The economic burden of problem gambling is substantial, with estimates placing the annual cost in the UK at over £1.2 billion.

The UK has one of the biggest gambling markets in the world, generating a profit of £14.2 billion in 2020. The majority of gamblers do gamble safely but it is estimated there are 400,000 harmful gamblers in the UK. Gambling is becoming more accessible with fixed-odds betting terminals, an abundance of gambling advertisements and online gaming. Online gaming is a gambling threat for younger people who may not recognise the dangers of using real money to aid them while gaming. An example may be the universally popular FIFA games where players of any age have the option of spending real money to enhance their ‘Ultimate Teams’. The rate of harmful gambling among 11-16year olds is twice as high as for adults - amongst boys it is three times as high.

Keith Lewis, Learning Manager, Construction and Stephen Craig, National Development Officer, work together delivering Unite Harmful Gambling Workplace Charter activities in partnership with Beacon Counselling Trust, one of the largest specialist support and referral services in the UK. They said:

“Traditionally, unions have supported members at the workplace on issues such as drugs and alcohol, and around 85% of employers have policies at workplace level. In contrast, only 5% of employers have a policy on harmful gambling. Unite’s Harmful Gambling Workplace Charter ensures that those with a gambling problem get the same support as those with other addictions. Harmful gambling is an addiction which can destroy lives, shatter families and lead to individuals losing their jobs – we would encourage all workplaces to sign up to the Unite charter”.

Useful links:

Unite Harmful Gambling Workplace Charter

RSPH Level 2 Award in Tackling Gambling Related Harms

Beacon Counselling Trust