The 5-Step Way to Deal with Employee Mental Health Concerns

It’s now commonly accepted that mental health issues are a concern. Therefore, as an employer you cannot keep your head in the sand; you need to take note of your employees’ mental wellbeing. Mental health issues have an impact on corporate wellness, not only affecting your employees on a personal level, but also your company’s success.


However, workplaces are still trying to minimise the issues relating to mental health of an individual as a strategy in order to delay action. According to a recent survey of ASX Top 300 companies, ‘over 40% of participants did not perceive mental illness as a potential risk to their organisation, and of those that did, close to half, said their organisation did not have policies in place to manage this risk. In addition, nearly 70% of those surveyed reported that they did not have a dedicated and properly trained resource to identify and manage an employee suffering from mental illness.’


According to Debra Brodowski, Manager of the Psychological Assessments Centre for Corporate Health, ‘From a broader workplace perspective, it is acknowledged that mental health issues do not only affect the actual individual in question. To this end, it is noted that there is a wider impact of the team members to consider when there is an employee with mental health issues. Team members may be supporting their colleague with a mental health issue, and as such this may take a toll on the team in relation to wellbeing, team workload, organisational morale, and workplace productivity.’


Therefore, it is vital that you address mental health issues in the workplace. In order to this effectively, you need to follow the five-step assessment process recommended by the WHS:


1. Identify the Risk: Brodowski explains, ‘An employer must identify any foreseeable hazard (read: perceived stressor) that may arise from the conduct of the employer’s undertaking and that has the potential to harm the health and safety of an employee or other person.’


2. Assess the Risk: ‘An employer must assess the risk arising from any hazard (perceived stressor) that is identified at the time the risk arises,’ says Brodowski. ‘Or before changes to work practices/ systems are made.’


3. Review the Risk: Brodowski urges, ‘An employer must review the risk when injury or illness arises (i.e. when stress due to work is highlighted) or when significant changes are proposed to work practises/ systems of work.’


4. Eliminate the Risk: ‘An employer must aim to eliminate the risk,’ Brodowski notes. ‘Or if not practical, control the risk.’


5. Control the Risk: ‘An employer must make attempts to control the risk,’ Brodowski asserts. You can do this in a number of ways. Firstly, you can isolate the person from the hazard or perceived stressor. Then, you could minimise the risk itself. Finally, you can take administrative steps, such as training, to reduce the risk.


Brodowski argues, ‘Under this risk assessment process, the duty of care for the employer shifts the focus from a reaction/ intervention model to one that is adopts a prevention/ elimination of risk stance. As an employer, to act appropriately to an individual who is presenting with mental health issue in the workplace, and therefore meet corporate responsibility under duty of care, there is a need to develop an appropriate framework to recognise, respond, and review each individual with a mental health issue as it arises.’ Indeed, there is a certain financial cost in doing so, but Brodowski urges, ‘The wider impact on workplace relationships, organisational culture and workplace productivity are much broader in nature and are considered to be more significant. As such, nowadays, effectively identifying and responding to mental health issues needs to be considered as a standard workplace health and safety practice for an e

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