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New research by employment specialists Reed in Partnership provides a stark warning about the difficulties problem gambling can cause people looking for jobs, as well as those currently in work.

We commissioned YouGov to survey adults in Britain, which revealed that more than a quarter of working people who gamble would prefer to keep the extent of their gambling hidden from colleagues. This rises to more than a third of people who work in finance, accountancy or legal services.

We found that 1 in 10 working adults have direct experience of the problems gambling can cause in the workplace, as they know someone for whom gambling has negatively affected their work.

The consequences of gambling can be severe and even lead to job losses, with, for example, 8% of people in the construction industry knowing someone who has been fired because of it.

As well as the gambling addiction itself, worries about mounting debts and impact on family life can be a real distraction at work. This in turn affects productivity and our survey found that 1 in 20 men say they sometimes think about gambling at work.

Business security

Our research showed that almost three quarters of people think businesses should be concerned about the impact of gambling on their employees, but we know that few companies have workplace gambling policies.

Businesses need to take it more seriously by developing a clear anti-gambling at work policy. They should also be more proactive in providing employee support, by providing information in the work place so that employees can recognise the symptoms of problem gambling early. There are organisations who can help, such as Gambler Anonymous, but often a lack of information or embarrassment about the situation can prevent people from seeking assistance.

Barrier to returning to work

Our research showed that 2 in 5 unemployed people have gambled in the last year, which means in many cases betting away their Jobseekers Allowance.

When we interviewed Reed in Partnership’s Employment Advisers – who work with job seekers every day – as part of our research, they said that in their view unemployed people can turn to gambling because they are “bored, stuck in a rut and have nothing else to do”.

The risk posed by gambling is greater for those who have been out of work for a prolonged period and do not have experience of budgeting for themselves. Our Advisers told us that a frequent consequence of gambling is that an individual cannot afford to travel to interviews and appointments, and so the issue has a very real impact on their prospects of finding work.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals are the electronic machines found in betting shops and are controversial because people can easily lose hundreds of pounds very quickly. Our survey found that these machines are particularly attractive to unemployed people, with twice the proportion of people out of work playing them as those in work.

We believe that employment support programmes should recognise the risk gambling presents to people trying to get back to work by providing guidance to prevent it from developing into a problem.

Gambling has become more accessible than ever, with smart phone apps meaning that no one is more than a few clicks away from making a bet. You can read our full report, which includes a series of recommendations, here.

Link to report: www.reedinpartnership.co.uk/gambling

For confidential advice and emotional support call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133 to speak with a trained advisor. Lines are open from 8:00am to midnight, seven days a week.