06/08/2015 - 10:32

Are you one of the 20% of workers that will experience a Mental Health Issue?

06/08/2015 - 10:32


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Are you one of the 20% of workers that will experience a Mental Health Issue?

One in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year.  Mental illness may develop externally, or within the workplace and regardless of the cause the cost to employers is significant:

  • Stress-related workers’ compensation claims cost over $10 billion each year; (Medibank Private (2008) The Cost of Workplace Stress in Australia p7)
  • 25% of 5000 workers surveyed indicated that they took time off for stress-related reasons; and (Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) survey, as cited at Price Waterhouse Coopers www.pwc.com,Workplace Stress (2008))
  • Preliminary research shows that Australian businesses lose over $6.5 billion each year by failing to provide early intervention/treatment for employees with mental health conditions. (Work Outcomes Research Cost Benefit Project, preliminary data, Mental Health Fact Sheet: Mental Health and Employment, MHCA)

Conversely, research also shows that every dollar spent on identifying, supporting and case-managing workers with mental health issues delivers close to a 500% return in improved productivity (Hilton M, Assisting the Return on Investment of Good Mental Health Practices as cited in Cowan G, Best Practice in Managing Mental Health in the Workplace).

These statistics coupled with the Employer’s legal responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all, clearly indicate that a proactive approach toward mental health is sound business practice.


Q: What if a Senior Employee has a Mental Health Issue?

A: A senior employee with a mental illness must be dealt with as a priority. Often these employees have a proven track record with the business and are key members of staff, but may have a team depending upon them and responsibility for key deliverables.  The long and short term requirements of the individual, as well as the team should be considered and supported.


Q: What are the responsibilities of the employee?

A: All employees, including those with mental illness, are legally obliged to:

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety;
  • take reasonable care that their acts and omissions do not adversely affect the health or safety of others; and,
  • co-operate with any reasonable instructions to ensure workplace health and safety.


Q: Can a Workers Compensation claim result?

A: Should a worker acquire or exacerbate a mental illness at work, employers may have legal obligations relating to the compensation and rehabilitation of workers injured at work.


Q: How do we handle a Mental Health Issues in our Business?

A: Mental illness can affect anyone and the effects may be long or short term.   Strategies, focusing on prevention, identification and early intervention, can limit the impact to the business and provide tangible benefits to any affected individual:


1.    Create a Safe Working Environment

Despite its prevalence within the community there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues.  Focus on creating an environment in which employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health issues through education and prevention.

2.    Develop and Implement Effective Policies and Procedures

Implement clear and sound policies and procedures to cover the management of mental illness issues, and ensure these are aligned to other policies such as Anti-Bullying and Grievance Resolution. 

3.    Demonstrate Healthy Work Practices

Set your workers up to succeed.  Ensure you have healthy work practices in place supported by: clear role expectations; regular feedback; and robust grievance and conflict resolution processes.

4.    Provide Flexible Work Arrangements

Emphasise the availability of flexible working arrangements where practical, to support those with mental health issues, including variable start and finish times and/or days worked; additional discretionary leave; and/ or working from home.

5.     Counselling and Support

Provide access to counselling and support services.  Larger businesses may choose to provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), affording the employee, and often their immediate family, confidential and timely access to independent professional support, minimising down time.       

Mental illness can affect any business, regardless of size, structure or industry.  Proactive and supportive strategies for dealing with mental health issues will minimise the potential impact upon your workplace while enhancing the general culture of your business.

For more information about WCA Solutions check out our LinkedIn page

Contact WCA- People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with Human Resources and Industrial Relations on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com.



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