Mental health is one of the most concerning workplace illnesses in current times. An example includes the impact of the use of fly-in-fly-out workers, with reports that mental illness has increased and suicides have occurred as a consequence of those not able to cope with the model.
I have found mental health to be a key topic at safety conferences, panel discussions and on social media. It has been brought up often in conversations I have had at various business networks by people holding management positions. Many managers regard it as a grey area in terms of their responsibilities and their ability to manage the complexity of workplace stresses verses non-work related mental illness. They felt they lacked the expertise.
How far does a workplace go when indications are that an individual has a psychological condition that is not work-related?
It made me think about the laws and expectations of the workplace in managing mental health. The workplace must to do all that is “reasonable and practicable” to ensure the welfare and safety of the workers; while the workers should not harm themselves or others.
Mental illness is more than just a condition related to work.
With regards to workplaces, shouldn’t the terms work-related stress, job stress, or strain, and so on, be used as described by the WHS laws, rather than mental illness? These are responses from stresses of work pressures that are different to mental health issues that are not work-related.
In terms of managing non-work related illness, where workers have medical conditions, i.e. diabetes, high blood pressure etc. these are kept in context, and the expectation is that the individual will self manage while at work by following their treatment plans.
It’s imperative that management be aware and monitor the general health and performance of their workers to ensure they meet their primary duty of care, and, where necessary, encourage workers to seek help even where their mental condition is non-work related. But there should be an understanding that specialised expertise is required. Workplaces are not equipped to handle mental illness, their responsibility is to manage work demands and resources in their workplace. Workplaces should focus on implementing processes and ensure that they are not causing undue stress on their workers