William Hill‘s recent extension of single manning in betting shops has come in for criticism in the press after it came to light that employees have been working alone at night in almost three quarters of its retail outlets for four months as the bookmaker looks to tackle ‘rising costs’.
The bookmaker said that total staff costs fell by 2% in the first half of the year following the rollout at the end of the first quarter of an extension of single manning to evenings ‘where appropriate’.MP for Tottenham David Lammy, a frequent critic of the betting industry no matter what the subject, was one of 43 signatories on a 2013 motion calling for improvements to the working conditions of betting shop staff, told the Financial Mail on Sunday: “Last year a betting shop worker was murdered while working alone late at night, but even that did not prompt the betting industry to act. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the first priority of big bookmakers is their profit margin rather than the safety of their staff.”
55-year-old Andrew Iacovou was murdered in May 2013, following a morning robbery on a Ladbrokes outlet in Morden, south London. Shafique Ahmad Aarij, 21, was jailed for a minimum of 26 years for the murder.
William Hill said worker safety remains paramount, adding that the firm takes it ‘extremely seriously’. At his firm’s interim results, new CEO James Henderson said that the bookmaker has not taken the approach lightly. He explained: “When we embarked on extending lone working, we did a risk-based approach. So we risked assessed every shop in the estate. We have three tiers of risk. And then, as a consequence of that, we decided to extend lone working in, just shy of, about 2,000 shops across the estate.
“In regards to was the risk-based approach appropriate, the statistics that we’ve been monitoring, on a weekly and a monthly basis, have shown that there is no variation to all the statistics that we monitor, all around security and what have you. So it demonstrates that the risk-based approach was exactly the right thing to do.”