Mental illness affects many Australian workplace

But there is much that can be done and
legalsuper is working with SANE Australia
to help ensure good advice is at hand if you need it.

Read more

Being aware of mental illness and the effects it may have on people in the workplace is important for a number of reasons – to the person affected, to colleagues, to managers and employers, and to productivity as well.

Untreated mental illness costs the Australian economy hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Familiarity with the effects of mental illness, how it is treated, and simple modifications, which can be made in the workplace to provide support, are actually good for productivity.

Maintaining someone in a job through a period of being unwell it is far less costly than losing them and having to recruit and train someone new.

When employees feel respected and cared for, they generally feel better about themselves and the work they do. This leads to better morale, and a happier, more productive workplace.

Legal rights and responsibilities

The law around employees affected by mental illness are complex.
It is important as an employer to understand what your responsibilities are, and to be up-to-date with the latest legislation.

When someone is affected by mental illness, there may be no impact in the workplace at all.

If they are able to carry out their work as usual, then it remains a private matter like any other health issue, which has no bearing on their job.

If symptoms do affect their capacity to carry out duties or have some other effect in the workplace, then it can raise a host of legal issues for both the employer and employee.

Three broad areas of legislation are relevant to managing any issues that arise in relation to an employee affected by mental illness.

  • Discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Privacy and confidentiality in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988
  • General workplace safety which is covered by the Fair Work Act 2009

Employees with mental illnesses have the same rights and responsibilities as any other worker. As a supervisor or manager it is important to understand your responsibilities so everyone has confidence to manage any issues which arise and there is a helpful framework in place to do what is right for both the employee and employer.

Additional Resources

How to help an employee with a mental illness

There are useful strategies and tips to help an employee with a mental illness.
This involves respect and care. A sensitive and proactive approach can lead to a happier and more productive workplace.

How to help a colleague or employee with mental illness

Understand

No one expects you to be a psychiatric expert, but understanding the basic facts, such as symptoms and effects on everyday functioning, can dispel myths and help you be more aware of how it feels for your colleague when they are unwell.

Support

It makes a big difference to those affected when someone makes the effort to understand and offer support. People with mental illness can sometimes feel left out or not listened to. It is important to remember to include them in discussions, meetings and social events.

Act

When someone with a mental illness is receiving appropriate treatment and support, they may not need additional help at work.

Avoid giving advice on dealing with mental illness (unless qualified to do so). Instead, ask the person if they have discussed with their manager or anyone else at work what appropriate action should be taken, and if they have a contact number for their doctor or mental health service.

Need support?

Factsheets produced by SANE Australia provide information about mental illness and how to deal with it in a professional environment. Click on a fact sheet below to find out more.

But if you feel the need to speak to someone you can call the SANE helpline to speak to a mental health professional.

Phone SANE helpline 1800 18 7263
Email info@sane.org.au
Website sane.org.au
Forums saneforums.org