1300 543 396
LifeWorks is a not for profit organisation that provides family, couple and individual
counselling, education, training and workplace services in Victoria Australia.
EAP: Are they OK? New EAP manager Jamie Anderson focuses on the gap between those experiencing the impacts of mental health conditions and those receiving support through workplace Employee Assistance Programs.
THE TEAM: Janet Jukes, new LifeWorks CEO.
This week is Mental Health week, so it's important to take the time to revist the place of Mental Health within the workplace and broader community. Possessing good mental health enables a person to use their skills and talents to their fullest potential. Conversely, suffering minor or major mental health problems creates tension in many areas of a person’s life such as relationships with others, ability to perform at work and study, and may also have physiological impacts.
We know that one in five adults, or 3.2 million people, in Australia will experience a mental health difficulty such as depression, anxiety or a substance misuse disorder in any year.  Despite these statistics, a recent survey of senior managers believed that none of their staff will experience a mental health problem at work .
Most people can recover from or manage their mental health difficulty and want to work. Employment can be a helpful part of the recovery process, however people with mental illness experience barriers to employment that are not to do with their ability, such as stigma, attitudes, and a rigid workplace.
For those employed, untreated mental illness can diminish engagement and activity in the workplace, and on average, every full-time employee with untreated depression costs an organisation $9,665 per year.  While for those unemployed, mental illness can act as an obstacle to gaining or holding a job. Job seekers with a self-reported mental illness have an unemployment rate of half that of the general population. 
Given that mental disorders account for 13.3% of Australia’s total burden of disease and injury and are estimated to cost the Australian economy $20 billion annually in lost productivity and labour participation, it makes sense to develop strategies to address this in the workplace. 
Key reasons to support people with mental illness in the workplace include:
Australians need flexible and supportive workplaces, where employment discrimination on the basis of mental health is eliminated and employers and employees are provided with support so that the potential of the individual and the business are maximised. 
LifeWorks has designed a number of training programs to support management and employees in managing psychological health at work. These programs are focussed on assisting managers in their role to support staff whilst maintaining business requirements and legal obligations; and to assist colleagues in managing sensitive mental health issues within the team. Contact us on 1300 543 396 or email Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007, National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing : Summary of findings, cat. no. 4326.0, ABS, Canberra.
Workers with Mental Illness: a practical guide for managers 2010, Australian Human Rights Commission
Hilton, M 2004, ‘Assessing the financial return on investment of good management strategies and the WORC Project’, research paper, University of Queensland, p. 4, viewed 4 April 2013, <www.qcmhr.uq.edu.au>.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2011‑13 (Cat. no. 4363.0.55.001). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2007, The burden of disease and injury in Australia, 2003, PHE 82, AIHW, Canberra, p. 61; Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009, Australian Social Trends: March 2009, cat. no. 4102.0, ABS, Canberra, p. 13.8
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2012, Sick on the Job? Myths and realities about mental health and work, OECD Publishing, Geneva, pp. 36, 40.22
Rueda, S, Chambers, L, Wilson, M, Mustard, C, Rourke, SB, Bayoumi, A, Raboud, J, & Lavis, J 2012, ‘Association of returning to work with better health in working age adults: A systematic review’, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 102, no. 3, pp. 541–556.23
Whiteford, HA, Sheridan, J, Cleary, CM, & Hilton, MF 2005, ‘The work outcomes research cost-benefit (WORC) project: The return on investment for facilitating help seeking behaviour’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 39 (Suppl.2), no. A37.24
Waghorn G, Lloyd C. The employment of people with mental illness. Australian e‑Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health 2005;4(2):1‑43.
Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2011, Realising the Health Benefits of Work: A Position Statement, RACP, Sydney, available at: <www.racp.edu.au>.
National Mental Health Commission 2012, A contributing life: the 2012 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Sydney, NMHC, p. 106
The Manager alleged that the employee was "aggressive and confrontational” during the meetings to discuss this issue, which the employee denied. As a result, the manager decided there was no other option but termination, saying the employment relationship had “irretrievably broken down and was not recoverable”.
The company argued there was a valid reason for the dismissal based on its allegations that the man had refused to follow a lawful direction to undertake on-call duties and had behaved in an aggressive manner. However, the FWC found that the employee could not be compelled to vary his contract and the company’s proposal amounted to significant changes to existing terms and conditions. The FWC further found that the direction to agree to these terms was not a lawful or even reasonable direction.
The Commissioner accepted that the meetings had been difficult and the employee had been "upset and angry”, but did not accept that he was aggressive or that his behaviour provided a valid reason for termination. That the employee strongly resisted a change to his terms and conditions was not found to be evidence of a breakdown in the employment relationship.
This case and the ruling is a reminder to employers to be mindful of what process and evidence is required to meet the ‘reasonable management action’ definition.
So what is the definition of reasonable management action? The right to take reasonable management action in section 789FD(2) of the Fair Work Act is premised on three factors:
Similarly the FWC in a recent ruling criticised the Department of Defence for its dismissal of an employee for excessive personal internet browsing, and the use of an anonymous search engine. The dismissal took place after a workplace investigation which the commission deemed to be unfair and unreasonable.
The key concern here was that the Department failed to speak to the employee’s manager or work colleagues about his internet usage, and whether or not it was having an impact on his work. The Commissioner made the point that it was fairly evident that co-workers and the employee’s direct manager would have a strong idea of whether he was spending the majority of his time browsing the internet for non work-related reasons
The ruling underscored the need for employers to ensure that their processes provide procedural fairness and natural justice and that findings are based on all available evidence.
LifeWorks Taking Disciplinary Action training provides necessary and relevant information for employers. The LifeWorks Business Services team are also skilled in carrying out performance management training, management coaching, workplace investigations and mediation. Contact Senior Consultant Leah Walls on 1300 543 396 or email email@example.com.
Janet Jukes - LifeWorks CEO
In September, Janet Jukes took over from longstanding LifeWorks CEO Kaye Swanton. Kaye's fourteen year tenure at LifeWorks, her dedication and commitment was duly acknowledge and celebrated. Janet is extremely excited to take up the role of CEO and to see the continued growth of LifeWorks in the Workplace. She is particularly focused on building our eLearning platforms and EAP services. To learn more about Janet visit the about us page.
We also welcome Jamie Anderson, our new dedicated EAP Manager. To learn more about Jamie, visit the about us page.