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Staff who gamble on company devices could pose a risk for employers

Employers may find themselves responsible for staff who gamble at work.

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Employers may find themselves responsible for staff who gamble at work. Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/staff-who-gamble-on-company-devices-could-pose-a-risk-for-employers-20140526-38z5u.html#ixzz32s5vemX0 

People punting on their work computer or company-issued smartphone are a danger for employers at risk of breaching work safety rules if staff become problem gamblers.

The explosion of internet gambling has made access to betting almost instant on smartphones and computers. The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation estimates that 1 in 100 workers are likely to have a gambling problem.

Responsible Gambling Awareness Week was launched on Monday with a major focus on gambling in the workplace.

Studies have shown there are 30,000 problem gamblers in Victoria, with another 100,000 people at risk of becoming gambling addicts. Internet gambling also attracts – and is targeted at – young, educated men with reasonably well-paying white collar jobs.

The foundation is warning businesses that they need to protect themselves and their staff about online gambling, and has called on companies to include rules around gambling websites in their internet usage conditions.

It has also suggested the use of internet filters to stop gambling in work hours.

"Employers from a health and wellbeing perspective need to be providing support as they do with a range of other things like mental health, but also from an OHS perspective, it's a risk they are exposed to," foundation chief executive Serge Sardo said.

He said gambling impacted on productivity through lost work hours – problem gamblers miss, on average, seven hours a week. There is also a risk that employees could undertake fraudulent behaviour or theft to fund their habit.

Former AFL football and sports broadcaster Wayne Schwass, a long-time mental health advocate, is also an ambassador for the awareness week.

"We have this disconnect between (where people think) issues around gambling are either at the casino, at the track or at home on the computer. But our life is intertwined with devices all day, every day and every aspect of our life, whether that be professionally or personally."

Law firm Holding Redlich senior associate Joel Zyngier, a specialist in workplace law, said problem gambling was a significant occupational health and safety risk.

He said under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, all employers must ensure they provide and maintain a workplace which is safe and without health risks, including mental health.

"Because problem gambling is a health risk, it therefore activates an employer's duties under the Act," Mr Zyngier said.

"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."

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