The UK's gaming industry hit the headlines recently with the introduction of the Gambling Bill. Introduced to Parliament in November, the Bill is expected to become law in 2006.
It has been forecast that the number of casinos in the UK will double by 2010, with an anticipated 24 per cent increase in the number of employees working in the industry.
For employers in the sector, there are a number of factors to be aware of.
Given the anti-social hours that staff in the gambling industry will be expected to work, many are likely to be classed as night workers for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR). Subject to any relevant agreement, such as a collective agreement stating otherwise, a night worker must not work more than an average of eight hours in each 24 hours over a 17-week reference period.
An employer must ensure that a night worker has the opportunity of a free health assessment before commencing employment, and further assessments should be made at regular intervals as necessary. HR professionals will need to consider staff rotas carefully.
The long-hours culture in the gaming industry means that employers must also consider the 48-hour weekly working time limit, and whether they will want the worker(s) to opt out.
Possible future changes to the availability and limit of the opt-out are currently the subject of consultation. Employers should also ensure that a worker receives an uninterrupted period of 20 minutes rest after every six hours of work.
Non-compliance with the WTR, or the dismissal or victimisation of an employee for raising a complaint in respect of non-compliance, may result in a tribunal claim for breach of the regulations, automatically qualifying as unfair dismissal (where there is no qualifying period) or a claim for suffering a detriment.
The health risks of working in the gaming industry were illustrated by a survey in Scotland carried out by the GMB union. This showed that 80 per cent of croupiers suffered from neck and back ache, 55 per cent complained of eye irritation - mainly caused by passive smoking, 90 per cent complained that air temperature was a serious problem at work, and 20 per cent complained of violence at work.
It is also important to consider the Health and Safety Act 1974, which states that an employer has a common law duty of care to provide a safe place of work.
Particular issues for casino operators arise from the nature o