Mental Health - Employer Obligations

If you saw a trip hazard on the office floor would you pick it up? Of course.

However, there’s a hazard that’s lying around workplaces across the country which is difficult to detect—mental health issues in the workplace. With a reported one in five Australians taking time off work to manage mental health issues, this issue is one issue not to be ignored.

Just as Workplace Health and Safety obligations ensure employers provide a physically safe workplace, that responsibility extends to a mentally healthy workspace. Aussie workers agree, with 85% stating employers are responsible for creating a mentally healthy work environment.

Aside from ensuring employees’ safety, knowing and acting on your mental health obligations makes good business sense too. Even the most basic programs are found to return between $2-$4 for every dollar spent. Plus, the cost of doing nothing is a staggering $6.5 billion every year for Australian businesses.

So, let’s have a look at your obligations form keeping a mentally safe workplace:

Care and Consult

While legislation may require employers ensure a safe and healthy workplace, human nature commands we care for each other. Show care by communicating with your workforce to identify hazards, report on how to eliminate risks and provide training and information on safety. Remember, we’re not just talking about physical safety here. Check in with your employees on their mental health too. As less than 25%* will pro-actively seek help for their mental condition, it is up to you to raise the subject.


Take Action

Knowing that an employee has a mental health condition is not information you just sit on. Like the trip hazard lying on the floor—action is required. By law, employers must provide the same opportunities for workers with disabilities to do their jobs, so long as they are capable of completing the core activity of the role. As this applies equally to those with mental conditions, you need to be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to help them cope with their disorder while carrying out work. It may include changes to work methods, hours of work or leave entitlements.


No Discrimination

The Disability Discrimination Act prevents employers from discriminating against someone with a mental illness. It means you need to be proactive in identifying gossip, conflict, bullying and harassment and take swift action to resolve any issues. It also implies caution when recruiting - if an potential candidate discloses that they have a mental condition during hiring, treat this information sensitively and confidentially. Use the information to adjust the work accordingly where needed —never to discriminate.

The late Archbishop of Canterbury, John Tillotson once said, “There is little pleasure in the world that is true and sincere beside the pleasure of doing our duty and doing good.”

Your workforce deserves the best working environment, so take pleasure in giving them a physically and mentally safe workplace.