Tackling Mental Health at Work

Tackling Mental Health at Work

Understanding the impact of mental health issues in the workplace have been steadily increasing but some still have a long way to go.

According to a 2015-2016 report by Deloitte UK on the impact of mental health in the workplace, there were:

  • 488,000 reported cases of work-related stress, anxiety or depression
  • 77 per cent of employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health in their lives
  • Only 2 in 5 employees were working at peak performance

Additionally, the Australian organisation Heads Up cites that around 1 million Australian adults live with depression and 2 million suffer from anxiety.

So how best should employers tackle mental health in the workplace?

The first thing, according to Heads up is being able to recognise changes in employee behaviour that may be impacting employee mental health:
Examples include:

  •  Avoiding work commitments
  • Becoming overwhelmed or upset easily
  • Having difficulty making decisions
  • Making references to being constantly worried and/or feeling apprehensive

For diagnosed mental health conditions, there are specific legal obligations that employers have regarding employees who have a mental health condition. These include:

  • Making reasonable adjustments so that employees can perform their role more effectively
  • Workplace health and safety
  • Ensuring privacy
  • Ensuring a workplace does not take any adverse action against an employee because of their mental health

Australian employers have specific legal obligations regarding employees with a mental health condition including:

  1. discrimination – making changes (reasonable adjustments) to enable employees to perform their duties more effectively, provided employees can fulfil the inherent or core requirements of the job
  2. work health and safety – eliminating the risks to workers’ health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable
  3. privacy – ensuring personal information about an employee’s mental health status is not disclosed to anyone without the employee’s consent
  4. fair work – ensuring a workplace does not take any adverse action against an employee because of their mental health condition.

Employers may have additional responsibilities under state and territory legislation relating to the return to work process if the employee is involved in a workers’ compensation claim. Guidance should be sought form their Health and Safety regulator.

Consider: what would be the approach if the employee was suffering from a physical illness?

Similar management approaches include:

  • Developing a plan to remain at or return to work
  • Being inclusive
  • Staying in touch
  • Maintaining confidentiality and privacy
  • Setting clear expectations

For advice on managing mental health in your workplace, speak to the HR Consulting team at Flexi Personnel