THE council has become the first local authority in the country to sign a charter pledging to support employees struggling with gambling.

The harmful gambling workplace charter is a framework between unions and employers, launched by Unite last year, which encourages businesses to offer support to any employee who is experiencing gambling related harms.

Wigan Council currently employs more than 4,000 staff, of which the large majority are borough residents, and is leading the way with its work to tackle harmful gambling.

Cllr Keith Cunliffe, deputy leader and chair of Wigan’s health and wellbeing board, said: “We are one of the first councils in the country to recognise that harmful gambling is a public health issue and often only comes to light when someone is in crisis.

“A gambling addiction can sometimes sadly lead to a number of scenarios including debt, homelessness, deteriorating mental health, and most tragically, suicide. It can have devastating effects on the individual and their families and we want to prevent that where we can.”

Signing the charter demonstrates the authority’s commitment to supporting staff with their health and wellbeing when it comes to the impact gambling may be having.

This may be signposting or referring someone to support services or giving them initial advice and guidance around responsible gambling and where to seek help, such as through Wigan’s harmful gambling treatment provider, Beacon Counselling Trust.

Key members of staff and union reps have been trained to offer support and this will be rolled out wider to service managers, before being offered to all staff.

Jim Mowatt, director of education for Unite, added: “The Harmful Gambling Workplace Charter is an important tool to help trade unions and employers tackle gambling related harms at workplace level. There are a wide range of gambling related harms which impact detrimentally on the health and wellbeing of individuals, their families and wider society. Unite is pleased that Wigan Council is the first Local Authority to sign the charter and we look forward to collaborating with the employer and sister unions to address harmful gambling in the workplace and community”.

Cllr Cunliffe also said: “As a large employer we have a duty of care to support our staff. We recognised we were offering support around mental health, alcohol, domestic violence, and other things, but had a huge gap when it came to gambling.

“We’re really proud to be leading this work with our trade unions and supporting our staff and residents in this way. Often it is hard to come forward, or even recognise that gambling is a problem, but by including it in regular conversations with our staff we hope we can break any stigma and help people recognise the signs of it being an issue.”