Managing Mental Health in the Workplace
The impact of mental illness on Australian workplaces can’t be overstated. It’s the single largest contributor to years that Aussies live in ill-health, and is the largest contributor — after cancer and cardiovascular conditions — to reducing the total number of years of healthy life for Australians.1
The cost of mental illness
Each year, around 7,200 Australians a year are compensated for work-related mental health conditions, representing around 6% of all workers compensation claims. This equates to around $543 million being paid through workers compensation annually2.
The importance of caring for your employees’ mental health
Reducing workers’ exposure to mental health hazards is as important for employers as reducing the risk of physical injury or illness.
Work-related psychological injuries can be caused by things like bullying and harassment, or exposure to violence. These can be exacerbated by a variety of factors, including:
- poor workplace relationships
- working remotely or in isolation,
- low/high job demand, and
- role clarity, or a lack thereof.3
How to care for your employees’ mental health
There are several strategies that employers can use to reduce and manage risk, and promote safe work environments for their employees.
- Educate the workforce about what a mentally healthy workplace is and how they may contribute.
- Increase the capacity of both individuals and organisations to recognise and address mental health and wellbeing concerns.
- Provide education and training to organisational leaders on how they can influence the development and maintenance of a mentally healthy workplace.
- Develop and implement policies and procedures that appropriately address psychosocial hazards and risk factors.
- Educate organisational leaders on intervention strategies and how they are implemented
- Educate the workforce on how to identify the early signs of distress, and what should be done once they’re identified.
Recovery and return to work
- Develop emergency response and crisis management plans that address mental health scenarios, including suicidal behaviour.
- Maintain at-work and return-to-work programs.
The above recommendations are based on a code of practice which was developed to help promote and maintain mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO workers in the resources and construction sectors, launched by Mines and Petroleum Minster Bill Johnston on 2 April 2019 in Western Australia4. But while the code was developed for that specific sector, the recommendations can apply to many types of workplaces across the country.
GIO offers Workers Compensation Insurance for businesses in WA, NT, ACT and TAS. You’ll also receive support services for your business, including risk management and training courses. For more information, please get in touch.
- Employee or contractor? Understanding the difference
- What risk does crystalline silica pose to Australian businesses and their workers?
- Working from home: How to manage the occupational risks
Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. In NSW, GIO manages claims as agent for the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer ABN 83 564 379 108, also known as icare workers insurance. The information is intended to be of a general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.
1Productivity Commission: The Social and Economic Benefits of Improving Mental Health (PDF, 1.15MB).
2Safework Australia (2019), Mental health in the workplace.
3Safe work Australia (2019), Work-related psychological health and safety – A systematic approach to meeting your duties.
4WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation & Safety (2019), Code of practice: Mentally healthy workplaces for fly-in fly our (FIFO) workers in the resources and construction sectors (PDF, 1.2MB).