Just a few short years ago, mental health and the workplace may not have even been linked together in a sentence. Why? Because mental health issues simply were not discussed... and especially not at work. Essentially, if someone had a mental health condition, they hid it (if they could) or left work in order to deal with it.
We have come a long way. There is now a robust discussion and a real desire to improve things for all people with disability, including mental health conditions.
The Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, has recently raised the issue again, releasing a discussion paper titled ‘Improving the employment participation of people with disability in Australia’. He is calling for submissions (and, as a side note, I am sure he would love to hear from people who run SMEs!). If you haven’t already seen it, the paper is available here.
The discussion paper includes some confronting statistics on the employment participation of people with disability, which are even more damning for people with mental health issues. Consider:
- The labour force participation rate of people without disability is 82.8 per cent, compared to 54.3 per cent of people with disability and 41.9 per cent of those with a mental health condition.
- People without disability had an unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent, compared to 7.8 per cent of people with disability and 14.9 per cent of those with a mental health condition.
We clearly still have a long way to go to break down employment barriers for people with mental health issues.
As a business owner or manager, why should you care? It’s hard enough to run a business without having to cater to individual needs of employees... I certainly understand that. Most people do.
The employment of people, any people, only works when it is sustainable for the employer... when they get the right person for the job, or keep the right person in a job.
That’s why our submission to the Government will largely focus on how employer-led strategies can increase the rates of employment participation for people with disability.
The Government already has some programs in place that start with the employer. JobAccess is one such program, providing free advice and support for employers as they seek to employ or retain an employee with a disability, including mental health conditions.
If there is just one message I have for employers, it is that getting the right person for the right job makes huge business sense. You know that part, but what might be new to you is that there is advice and support available for you if that ‘right person’ happens to be someone with disability.
Barriers in the workplace due to disability, including mental health conditions, can be overcome – often quite easily – giving you and your business access to a wider range of talented potential employees.
COSBOA is hosting a webinar on managing mental health issues for small businesses, presented by Nicola Tuckwell, on 13 February 2013. For more information or to register, click here.
JobAccess is a one-stop-shop for all matters related to the employment of people with disability, including mental health, administered by WorkFocus Australia on behalf of the Australian Government. JobAccess is a free service for people with disability, employers and service providers, delivering information and advice via phone and website, and coordinating adjustments in the workplace.
For more information about managing mental health in the workplace:
- JobAccess on 1800 464 800 or visit www.jobaccess.gov.au
For more information about mental health in other spheres of life:
- beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or visit www.beyondblue.org.au
- SANE Australia on 1800 18SANE (7263) or www.sane.org
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers 2009, 4430.0.