Every year, between 4 and 5 million Australians suffer from some form of mental health issue. Mental Health is the third largest chronic disease in the country, just behind cancer and cardiovascular disease. And as such, it is important that steps are taken by employers as well as the government, to ensure that mental illnesses is not aggravated by the workplace.

While there is already significant spending from the government to the Mental Health sector – the Federal Government currently spends $10b – too often, many Australians still fall through the cracks or do not receive the full individual support that they require. The current reforms will see no extra overall funding in the mental health industry, however it will reshape the current regime of mental health services and how they are delivered.

The federal government has released a reform package which aims to address issues in the Mental Health sector as a direct response to a review from the National Mental Health Commission on Mental Health Programmes and Services. The new reforms aim to cater for the complexity of Mental Health and the broad spectrum of needs that individuals have, rather than the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.

What’s in the Government’s new Mental Health reforms:

  • Tailored care packages for severe and complex mental illness.
  • Flexible support for mild and moderate mental illness.
  • The implementation of more digital mental health services to better cater for individuals living outside of urban areas.
  • A new telephone hotline to direct people to appropriate services, such as suicide prevention services.
  • $85m will go towards Indigenous mental health over the three year period.

The aims of the Government’s Mental Health reforms

The new reforms aim to shift current mental health services towards a more modern, flexible model of care, with the individual’s needs at the centre.

“We are setting out a blueprint for reform that puts the individual at the centre of our mental health system.” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.

People identified by health professionals as needing complex care services will be eligible to access a package of integrated health services, including comprehensive assessment and care-coordination support, psychological services, mental health nursing, drug and alcohol services, vocational assistance and peer support.

The reforms will be introduced in early 2016, and implemented over a three year period.

Mental illness and employment

It is highly likely that as a small business owner, you will work with an individual with a mental illness at some point in your career. It is imperative then that there are policies in place to accurately deal with mental illness in the workplace when it arises. This includes sick leave, or additional workplace support.

Providing a healthy and safe workplace for employees, free from unnecessary stress is a great business tactic for small businesses. Preliminary research shows that Australian businesses lose over $6.5 billion each year by failing to provide early intervention/treatment for employees with mental health conditions.

How to ensure your workplace complies with mental illness regulations

  • Ensure that adverse action against a worker because of their mental illness is not taken;
  • Have mental health strategies implemented into Occupational Work Health and Safety processes to ensure the workplace does not cause unnecessary stress or aggravate existing health conditions;
  • Implementing an anti-discrimination policy. An Anti-Discrimination Policy provides your business with a simple way to clarify what’s considered workplace discrimination, information on how to report incidents of discrimination and an explanation of the consequences of breaching this policy;
  • Take reasonable care to accommodate the needs of workers with mental illness;
  • Implement a harassment and bullying policy. This is essential to explain what actions classify as workplace harassment and bullying, and to clearly emphasise that these actions will not be tolerated; and
  • Ensure that a worker’s mental health status remains private and not disclosed to anyone without the worker’s consent.Unsure where to start? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from one our network of 600+ expert lawyers or any other legal needs.

Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.