But according to Joel Zyngier, senior associate at Holding Redlich, the issue of employees gambling at work or using work equipment to gamble needs to be treated as an occupational health and safety risk – especially since problem gambling has been formally recognised as an addictive disorder.
With the proliferation of smartphones and similar mobile technology, there is a greater chance that gambling is taking place at work, said Zyngier.
He recommended that employers conduct a risk assessment and put a management plan in place to avoid it becoming a problem.
“Gambling is a risky business and that includes the risks to employers if they allow employees to become unwell in part by exercising their gambling habit at work,” Zyngier said.
“Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, all employers must ensure they provide and maintain a workplace which is safe and without risks to health. Because problem gambling is a health risk, it therefore activates an employer’s duties under the act. This means not taking reasonable steps to prevent gambling at work could be seen as a breach of this act, exposing an employer to risk of prosecution and penalties.”
According to the government’s problem gambling website, up to 500,000 Australians are either already problem gamblers, or at risk of becoming so, with an estimated social cost of $4.7 billion per year.
Zyngier said employers needed to establish whether opportunities to gamble existed in the workplace and take measures such as early intervention, blocking access to online gambling websites and putting a policy in place to deal with workplace gambling.
“Once a risk has been identified, the employer needs to control the risk. This does not mean an employer has to be the ‘nanny’ for employees or overly regulate their private activities. A workplace in which an employer allows gambling to occur without taking steps could be considered an unsafe workplace and therefore leaves the employer open to being penalised.”
Do you think employers need a workplace gambling policy?
On the surface, gambling may not seem like the kind of thing that would pose a health and safety risk at work.