A very insightful piece by James Callaway of Beacon Counselling Trust, one of our amazing Business Network Partners.
Exploring why gambling related harms are not supported at the workplace in the same way as other addictions.
Gambling Related Harms in the Workplace
In recent years, more focus has been given to improving wellbeing in the workplace. From a humanistic perspective, this is vitally important; being valued and feeling supported as an employee is the motivation for professional and personal development, and knowing there is support available (such as employee assistance programmes) can be reassuring.
From a business perspective, keeping a workforce healthy and happy will generally speaking maintain if not increase productivity and reduce the number of sick leave days taken. Health and wellbeing days, team building days, and regular supervision sessions with line managers can all contribute to staff and volunteers feeling valued and supported at work.
There are however a number of external factors at play that may impact employees, employers, and the wider society as a whole. There has been an increase in awareness of mental health illness over the past ten to fifteen years and the aforementioned employee assistance programmes have helped support those struggling. This has also contributed to many workplaces having policies and procedures in place to aid staff through difficult times, particularly those that have been exacerbated by Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.
While it is clear poor mental health still affects many people both in and outside of the workplace, robust internal support systems within the workplace can often reduce the negative impactive this can have both on the individual and the organisation. The protection offered in many workplaces is often valued support.
Addiction is an area that many organisations try to address, to support their employees, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests 85% of employers have policies in place that provide clear guidance and a pathway to support for any member of staff impacted by this issue. Whilst this may not reduce the level of substance misuse at a population level these measures being in place could be a contributing factor towards someone reaching out and seeking help for the first time.
One addiction that is not supported in the same way in the workplace is gambling related harm. With the current cost of living crisis, many (including those in employment) may turn to gambling as a way of supplementing income or as a method of trying to make ends meet, particularly with Christmas in the not-too-distant future.
Individuals may begin to use gambling as a way to make money, which if not supported and managed properly can lead to increased levels of poverty/financial hardship, poor mental health, relationship breakdown, and isolation. Furthermore, at its most severe gambling can also be linked to criminality, co-morbidity, and suicidal ideation.
It is estimated there are 350,000 individuals experiencing gambling related harm in the UK with a further 4.3 million people impacted by the gambling of a parent, carer, family member, or friend (findings published by the Gambling Commission).
Gambling is no longer a male-dominated activity, with the ease with which gambling can be accessed and a focus of industry marketing, the number of women engaging with gambling and thus experiencing harm has grown too. Often labelled the ‘hidden addiction’, stigma creates a huge barrier for individuals coming forward and accessing support. Therefore, the workplace can play a vital role in giving gambling harms parity issues such as substance misuse and offering support for any employee who may be impacted.
According to Project Wellbeing, less than 5% of employers have a gambling related harms policy, at Beacon Counselling Trust we feel addressing this will help not only provide support to employees in need but also support an overarching strategy to reduce gambling related harms and raise awareness of this issue in a wider context.
The Workplace Charter to Reduce Gambling Related Harms is an initiative developed by Beacon Counselling Trust to support organisations, employers, and employees to develop a positive culture, engage in gambling harm conversation, reduce stigma, create system change, and promote interventions at the earliest opportunity.
The Workplace Charter provides 7 key principles that offer practical, evidence-based ways in which employers and staff can commit to promoting the health and wellbeing of their workers experiencing gambling related harms. In turn, it helps reduce sickness absence and support those at risk of/or experiencing this issue.
Beacon Counselling Trust (BCT) also offers free and confidential specialist support for anyone impacted by gambling related harms. This can be for the individual gambling or those affected by the gambling of somebody else. BCT also offers a comprehensive Aftercare programme to provide continued support for those in recovery through several initiatives including peer support, trek therapy, support for families, and practical support. As often ongoing support is critical to the continued wellbeing of individuals who are susceptible to gambling related harms.
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