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Mental Illness in the Workplace

DID YOU KNOW? Did you know that one in five (5) Australian adults experience some form of mental illness every year? This serious illness has increased over the past 5 years, which now have seen around 45% of Australians aged between sixteen (16) and eight-five (85) experiencing a mental illness at some point in their […]

Mental Illness in the Workplace

Mental Illness in the Workplace

By Aylward Game - Apr 8, 2016 Employment Law

DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know that one in five (5) Australian adults experience some form of mental illness every year? This serious illness has increased over the past 5 years, which now have seen around 45% of Australians aged between sixteen (16) and eight-five (85) experiencing a mental illness at some point in their life. As we all know, unfortunately, mental illness or any form of illness doesn’t just stop at home. You live majority of your life at work and thus wherever you go your illness may shadow.

As an employee, you may develop a mental illness prior to your employment or during your current employment and without a good support system and ongoing work strategies you may be in a worse off position. As an employee, you need to know your rights and privileges at a workplace if it is affecting your day-to-day life. You deserve a workplace that ensures a safe and healthy environment.

EMPLOYERS AND MANAGEMENT ROLES

All employers and management roles require appropriate steps to be taken to minimise and eliminate any form of illness whether that be mental or physical that is impacting an employee. Employers and management staff are obliged to create and identify possible work practices, actions or incident procedures which may eliminate mental illness of their employees.

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There are many reasons why an employer should help improve and support an employee’s physical and mental concerns, namely; because a safe and healthy workplace is good for business, it improves productivity thus increasing revenue but most importantly it’s because it’s the LAW.

An employer has a number of legal obligations in relation to the management of mental illness in the workplace; ensuring that Occupational Health & Safety is met, avoiding discrimination within the workplace both with employer-employee relations as well as employee-employee relationships and ensuring privacy has been kept between the employer and employee.

MENTAL ILLNESS AT WORK

The employer must provide, ‘reasonable accommodation’ to assist an employee to properly perform their duties whether that employee is physically or mentally disabled. Unfortunately, for an employer, supporting and facilitating a mental illness is of greater difficulty to suppress and support than that of a physical injury/disability. For example, an employer can support one of their staff members by enabling wheelchair access and assessable workspaces for a person of physical illness however, supporting an employee with a mental illness comes with greater challenges.

The Courts have focused on what is ‘reasonable’. The Court will require employers to go to all lengths to enable employees with mental illness to keep working but on the other hand an employer mustn’t go to such accommodation that is too much of an offset for an employer’s revenue and expenses.

In the principal case of Ambulance Victoria v M, [2012] the Full Bench determined that an employer cannot dismiss an employee or not reinstate an employee due to a lack of confidence in the employee’s ability to sustain and maintain good employment with a mental illness. There must be a reasonable based judgment in coming to this decision, momentary figures for example.

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