Cost Cutting At The Expense Of Staff Safety

Betfred Staff

It’s clear that, having moved to longer opening hours, Betfred is now seeking to claw back staff costs through its new working hours and mandatory lone working. But it’s equally obvious that the price of that is likely to be the safety and wellbeing of staff.

73% of people who answered our survey said that they simply do not feel safe lone working. It does not take a genius to work out that leaving a staff member alone in a shop until 10pm, handling large amounts of cash, makes them an obvious target. Indeed, our survey is littered with accounts of robberies, some of which have been at gunpoint. Staff are sitting ducks, and criminals will soon start to realise that.

“I have worked in bookies for many years I have been involved in an armed robbery so I know first-hand the damage these things do you physically and mentally. I would not wish the experience on anybody. Unfortunately bookmakers see their staff as disposable.”

“I don’t see how it would be safe to empty thousands of pounds out of 10 plus machines at the end of the night and after working long hours. There is no wiggle room in the procedures currently in place regarding this and we are threatened with a disciplinary if we open the machines within the last two hours no matter how much money is in them. Even if it wasn’t safe to do so before 8 then we would have to wait until 10 to empty and count thousands of pounds from multiple machines and then staff staying back if the numbers do not add up.”

Betfred is undoubtedly aware of the risk, but does it care? No responsible employer would impose this change on staff without a very careful risk assessment that is published. Undoubtedly there are some members, in some locations, who are happy to work alone at night, but it’s clear that the vast majority are not. Do you think the Betfred Senior Management Team, who are the decision makers on this issue, would be happy to lone work these shifts themselves?

Let’s see. We challenge each of its Executive Directors to sign up to work alone in shops that we select for four evenings each over the next two months. If they are prepared to accept this challenge they can contact me and I’ll nominate the shops.

What About Customers?

88% of members surveyed said that they don’t agree the changes will result in a better customer experience. Given the volume of work that has to be undertaken with affordability checks, paperwork, dealing with self-excluded or barred customers and adhering to age check requirements, all whilst trying to serve customers on time, is quite obviously going to cause problems. Furthermore, customers are clearly not going to be happy if staff cannot leave the counter to deal with issues such as money stuck in machines, tickets not printing etc because they’re lone working. There’s going to be considerable pressure on staff to leave secure areas to sort out problems on the shop floor, which obviously leaves them extremely vulnerable, working alone at night. Again, Betfred must realise that, but seems prepared to ignore the issues.

Critically, 63% of respondents said that the proposed arrangements will have an adverse effect on their ability to comply with the company’s security procedures and other policies. Checking that customers are of an appropriate age to gamble is an obvious area for concern. The proposals clearly reduce the ability of staff to adhere to the requirements.

“How will we be able to see customer faces if we can’t leave the counter?”

You can be certain that when things go wrong, which they will, the company’s first response will be commence disciplinary action against staff.

“How will we go out to change the paper in a machine? How will we be able to monitor what is going on, if we have to go to the toilet? How can we be cautious of everything happening if we have to take bets, translate, watch the door for children, check the toilet, clear the shop of paper and clean up before the end of the day, verify the figures, count the safe, count the till, count the money in the BGT’d and the money in the FOBT’s? If they want to save money, close early.”

To do their jobs properly, staff will have to leave the counter, but at considerable risk with disciplinary action always a possibility. Staff will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t!

Taking Action

If anyone should be interested in what’s going on in Betfred, it’s the Gambling Commission.

The Gambling Commission has told us:

“If poor staff management impacts how the licensee meets our requirements in the Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP), we would be grateful if you could share further evidence”

 “facilities for gambling must only be offered in a way that provides for appropriate supervision of those facilities by staff at all times”

Betfred’s plan to change its working hours obviously raises serious questions about how shops will be able to comply with the Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice. That needs to be addressed. If Betfred cannot comply with the LCCP, the changes should not go ahead.

We’ll be writing to the Gambling Commission to raise these issues: we’ll keep members updated. I’ll also let you know if any Executive Directors sign up to our Work Alone challenge!

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