Your questions answered: How do we approach a young employee with an apparent eating disorder?

By Portner Press on November 18th, 2019
  1. Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination
  2. Discrimination in the workplace

We have a 17-year-old staff member we are worried about. We have been told that she eats by herself at the local food court and after eating she goes to a nearby toilet to vomit.

We are planning to talk to her. Do we need to have her parent or carer with us when we talk to her as she is only 17?

Is there any legislation on how we can discuss the matter with her? We don’t know if her parent will support her? We are concerned and we want to take action.

If you are concerned about this employee, you may wish to ask her to attend a meeting to let her know that you have been informed of her behaviour during lunchtime.

Perhaps ask her if this is true. If she admits to having an eating disorder, you should ask her whether she is currently being treated for it, offer her your support and direct her to the employee assistance program (if any).

You may also direct her to services such as the Butterfly Foundation:

The Butterfly Foundation has a National Help Line that she will be able to contact.

Please be mindful that taking any adverse action against this employee (such as subjecting her to disciplinary action) due to her behaviour (if she does in fact have an eating disorder) will expose you to liability under the Fair Work Act and anti-discrimination legislation.

There is no legislation that obligates you to inform her parents of this issue. If you inform this employee’s parents without this employee’s consent, you may be in breach of privacy legislation.

Employee management issues aren’t always black and white

This is why you need the one-on-one support of the workplace lawyers at Portner Digital.

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