Call to ban gambling in workplace

GAMBLING at work, using the work computer or telephone, should be banned for occupational health and safety reasons, just as smoking has been banned, according to a workplace relations specialist.

A massive increase in online gambling opportunities, including through social media sites, has led to warnings businesses need to develop new IT and social media policies to better protect workers and employers.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has recognised the potential health risk from gambling with staff to be offered education and training to reduce the risk of developing a gambling problem as part of its OH&S policies.

Gambling from the desk at work has never been easier - on Melbourne Cup day at least one Fairfax publication ran a prominent full-page advertisement from a gambling company explaining how it took just two minutes to set up an online gambling account and begin gambling with a credit card.

While some of Australia's biggest companies, including Telstra, have social media policies explaining what is an appropriate use of social media by employees, few social media or IT policies address gambling specifically.

Instead, companies, including Telstra, often block gambling websites from work computers.

A senior associate and workplace relations specialist at Holding Redlich, Joel Zyngier, said it was time to ban gambling on company time using company equipment.

''Due to the increased trend of gambling via social media, it is clear that the unacceptable behaviour must include using an employer's resources to engage in gambling via social media,'' he said. ''As far as I am aware it [gambling] is not being looked at, at least to the same extent, that pornography or race hate sites are being looked at.

''An employer's duty under OH&S law is to do everything it practically can to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety in the workplace. Unfettered access to the internet, coupled with knowledge that employees have the potential to cause themselves harm by gambling, may trigger an employer's OH&S duty.''

He said employer IT and social media policies varied from unlimited use of the internet to ''you must not use your computer for non-business-related activities''.

He advised companies against a total social media ban, calling it unrealistic, and said they should have in place clear policies based on ''reasonable use'' and clearly state what was banned, such as gambling.

Mr Zyngier warned a company could find itself in trouble if an employee developed or increased a gambling addiction while at work. ''It wouldn't be a common situation … but if they continue to allow the person access to something that harms themselves then it could very well be an occupational health and safety breach,'' he said.

The gambling reform advocate Tom Cummings said social media was particularly popular with 20- to 30-year-old men - the target market of many sports betting companies. ''Social media has been identified as the next wave or battleground of gambling,'' he said. ''The growth in gambling apps, simulated and real-money gambling apps, is staggering. Every bookmaker is embracing social media.''

This story Call to ban gambling in workplace first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.