It's The Law

Mental Health Awareness - Legal Obligations for Organisations and Businesses 

We all know that organisations and businesses are legally obliged to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all their workers and visitors and to take reasonable and practicable action to prevent or lessen the potential risks to their health and safety.  But did you know that this also applies to the mental health and safety of workers and visitors too? 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 26.5% of adolescents will experience mental health problems with 22% of deaths attributed to suicide.

In Australia, it is reported that the majority of mental illnesses, including depression, begin in adolescence and early childhood and go undiagnosed and untreated. The stigma attached to mental health illness - yes, even now in this day and age - discourages employees from seeking essential support to help them. The impact of this on businesses is significant.

The Cost To Your Business

The cost to your business of mental health illness cannot be ignoredBeyond Blue report that the impact on businesses of untreated depression in the workplace includes:

  • 3 to 4 days off work per month for each person experiencing depression
  • over 6 million working days lost each year in Australia
  • 12 million days of reduced productivity each year
  • $9,660 in absenteeism and lost productivity costs per full-time employee with untreated depression each year ($650,000 per annum per 1,000 employees).

The ways in which organisational people policies and practices are designed and implemented need to take into account the fact that potentially, one in four of their employees or prospective employees will have a mental health condition. Failure to do this could lead a business to suffer significant adverse cost implications as a result of workers lost time or disengagement from the workplace. Furthermore, not acting to prevent or limit the hazards that may exacerbate mental health illnesses in workers and visitors, could lead to businesses faced with costly legal proceedings and potential harm to your and your businesses reputation.  

So what do you need to do as a business owner or leader?

It's simple. As an absolute minimum follow these three steps:

  1. Ensure you incorporate mental health awareness, education and management programs into your people policies and leadership development and practices. It's not just the legal thing to do, it's the right thing to do.
  2. Promote the fact that your organisation provides support for those who are, or think they may be, suffering from an adverse mental health condition or illness.
  3. Engage with your workers on the importance of looking out for their colleagues by asking the question  "are you ok?" and encouraging them to seek help if they suspect that their co-workers may be experiencing mental health challenges. 

For information and guidance on developing and implementing Mental Health Awareness programs for your organisation, contact

Further information on mental health illnesses can be viewed by visiting