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Addicted to video games – what can employers do?

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In its latest release of the Disease Classification Manual, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognised excessive gaming (usually online gaming) as an addiction, which could potentially lead to it being reclassified as a disability in the future. The WHO has stated that all available evidence was considered prior to its inclusion. So, what is gaming addiction?

A gaming addiction

The International Classification of Diseases has a three-part definition of a gaming disorder:

  1. The individual has limited self-control over their gaming (e.g. the frequency, intensity, and duration of their play);
  2. as the addiction becomes more apparent the individual may increase the priority of their gaming, potentially having a harmful effect on regular day-to-day activities, including employment; and
  3. the continuation of intense gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

This pattern of behaviour can cause significant damage towards an individual’s family involvement, socialisation, and other important areas of functioning. The behaviour pattern of a gaming addict is normally evident when looked at over a period of 12 months, at which point a diagnosis should be given, although this period can be shorter depending on the severity of the individual’s symptoms.

How can a gaming addiction affect an individual's employment role?

Like any other addiction, a gaming addiction can affect an employee’s productivity and overall performance in the workplace. However, there is a possibility that gaming addiction may be recognised as a disability under the Equality Act in the future, so it is important to be prepared.

As an employer, you are legally obligated to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee if:

  • You become aware of their disability and/or
  • they ask for adjustments to be made and/or
  • a disabled employee is having difficulty with any part of their job and/or
  • either an employee’s sickness record or delay in returning to work, is linked to their disability.

As an employer, in specific circumstances such as where health or physical ability is a relevant factor for the job, and as a requirement for company benefits such as health insurance schemes, you may consider asking health-related questions or requesting a health examination as part of the application process. It should be noted, however, that if a job applicant was unsuccessful after having completed a questionnaire saying that they did have health problems, the unsuccessful applicant may believe that the reason they were unsuccessful was because of a medical condition, and they may decide to issue a claim to the Employment Tribunal for compensation claiming that they were not offered the job as a result of a protected characteristic, being disability discrimination.

You should also be aware that changes implemented by the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) have affected the way in which requests for health examinations can be made, and how the information arising from those examinations can be obtained. You can read more about the implications of GDPR on health examinations here.

What you need to be aware of as an employer

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure that there is no discrimination in the workplace, and to encourage equality and equal opportunities to all staff with or without a disability. So what actions can you take to ensure an employee with such an addiction is treated fairly?

As discussed above, adjustments can be put in place to aid the individual’s performance and improve their morale in the workplace. Such adjustments may include changing their duties, their working hours, or granting more rest breaks.

An employer can take positive action to help employees or applicants that it thinks:

  • are at a disadvantage because of a protected characteristic (in this case a disability) and/or
  • are under-represented in the organisation, or whose participation in the organisation is disproportionately low, because of a protected characteristic and/or
  • have specific needs connected to a protected characteristic.

You should be sure that any positive action taken does not discriminate against other employees, and thoroughly consider its implementation ahead of time. If these conditions are met, then you may take steps to remove any barriers or disadvantages that the employee may face, and provide training, support, and encouragement to improve participation of the employee with the protected characteristic.


If you require assistance with any of the issues discussed above, you should contact us at your earliest convenience on 0161 785 3500.


ACAS – Equality and Discrimination: Understand the basics

ICD definition of gaming addiction

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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