Mental health inaction costing businesses $11bn annually

2 November 2022

A failure to adequately respond to the needs of employees suffering mental health challenges is costing Australian businesses almost $11 billion a year.

JobAccess General Manager, Daniel Valiente-Riedl, today highlighted the financial impact of negative mental health on businesses.

“Improving mental health in the workplace is important for employees and impacts the organisation’s productivity and profitability,” Valiente-Riedl says.

“Nine out of 10 employees believe working in a mentally healthy workplace is important, while mental ill-health costs Australian businesses billions of dollars,” he adds.

Untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces $10.9 billion per year – $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $146 million in compensation claims, according to a PwC and Beyond Blue report on mental health in the workplace.

One in five Australians experience mental ill-health in a 12-month period, according to the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2022 report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, he said.

Mental health values attract candidates

Candidates want employers to support good mental health.

Beyond Blue’s Heads Up Initiative found that having a mentally healthy workplace was the second most important factor in an employee’s decision to accept a new position after their pay level.

Less visible but crucial

“Many people think of workplace adjustments primarily in the form of physical modifications, like building ramps, making the premises wheelchair accessible, or using assistive devices like screen readers or amplified phones,” says Valiente-Riedl.

Physical modifications are just one of many ways employers can support people with disabilities.

“The often-overlooked aspect is providing support for people with invisible disability, including mental health conditions,” he adds.

How you can support your employees’ mental health

Providing workplace adjustments to support employees can be a starting point.

Workplace adjustments can be simple, and most do not require additional resources to improve the support already offered to employees.

Some adjustments include offering flexible working conditions to support employees in making suitable arrangements.

The Queensland Government’s Flexible by Design is a good example of a principle-based framework for flexible working designed to increase productivity while promoting employee well-being.

Other adjustments include individualised supervision and support, such as additional one-to-one meetings for employees.

Ensuring management is approachable, and understanding is another step to encourage open conversations about issues facing employees.

Employers can make modifications to reduce stress and accommodate limitations, even if this is only temporary. Promoting the use of the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is another positive step employers can take.

Help is at hand with JobAccess

Many employers are unaware of the support available to them. Some fear providing support will be expensive, difficult or time-consuming.

“This is not the case. JobAccess has an extensive range of free support and expertise to tap into that can help employers look after their employees’ mental health,” Valiente-Riedl said.

In the first instance, employers can speak with a JobAccess Adviser on 1800 464 800 for expert and confidential information tailored specifically to their workplace needs.

JobAccess has a team of front-line professionals who provide expert, confidential and tailored advice regarding workplace adjustments at first contact.

Employers can also visit the JobAccess Employer Toolkit. It is a free, on-demand and practical resource designed to support employer confidence and covers all aspects of disability employment, including mental health.

Funding for training and on-the-job support

JobAccess can also organise on-the-job training and support through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) for managers, staff and people with mental health conditions.

The EAF can provide funding of up to $1,500 per annum to employers for each eligible employee to conduct training at the workplace by a reputable organisation and delivered by qualified professionals with specialist expertise.

“The training seeks to increase awareness, reduce stigma, improve attitudes, as well as increase the confidence of employers and co-workers to assist someone in seeking help,” Valiente-Riedl says.

Aside from training, funding is available for specialist services by professionals with expertise in mental health and learning disorders.

It can include professional counselling by a registered psychologist, where the counselling will assist the person in carrying out their job duties. Most assistance is in response to depression, stress, mood disorders, anxiety and anger management issues.

The funding can also include coaching programs or mentoring in the workplace, where the program is related to overcoming a barrier to work caused by the mental health condition.

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