1 min read

Are you contributing to mental illness in your workplace?

By Brihony Tulloch

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about health and safety obligations, but your duty of care under common law is to exercise reasonable care for your employees’ safety. This includes minimising risks to health that a stressful working environment may pose.

According to The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, 90% of employees think mental health is an important issue for businesses, but only 50% believe their workplace is mentally healthy.

Health and safety legislation operating in all jurisdictions imposes a general duty on you to ensure safe systems of work and a safe working environment that does not pose health and safety risks to your employees.

The legislation requires you to:

  • identify workplace practices, incidents or actions that may cause or contribute to the mental illness of your employees; and
  • take actions to eliminate or minimise these risks.

This duty extends to risks to health and safety posed by psychosocial hazards in the workplace, such as stress, workplace violence and bullying.

Checklist to counter the problem

Use this checklist to avoid workplace factors that exacerbate or contribute to the development of mental illness:

  • Are workers exposed to high levels of pressure, e.g. tight deadlines and long work hours?
  • Are workers involved in decision-making that affects how their work is performed or managed?
  • Do workers have clarity around their roles?
  • What steps have you taken to remove job insecurity among employees?
  • What have you done to ensure that workers are not exposed to bullying or workplace trauma, e.g. witnessing a workplace incident?
  • Do workers and their managers enjoy good communication about their work or work processes in general?
  • Are workers adequately resourced to carry out their roles?

You are obliged to take reasonably practicable steps to maintain the health and wellbeing of your employees and other people impacted by your business, e.g. contractors, volunteers or apprentices.

This includes taking steps to minimise the risk of causing or aggravating mental illness or mental health issues.

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