How to manage mental health in the workplace

Our workplaces are just like any other community and is a microcosm of the community at large. This includes employees who are experiencing mental health challenges.

Understanding the barriers to entering or remaining in the workplace for people experiencing mental health issues is necessary if we are going to break down the barriers and foster tolerance and acceptance. The current dichotomy between the medical model of management for mental health and the legal frameworks for management of the employment relationship often result in the employee being trapped between what the medical professional recommends for their wellbeing and recovery, and what the employer is willing or obliged to accommodate.

When rights and obligations become the focus of the discussion, the wellbeing of the employee often becomes lost in the noise of the debate. Employers often struggle to navigate their way through the mire of regulatory frameworks in trying to balance discrimination, employment and privacy obligations in circumstances where there is generally a lack of understanding of mental health issues. The fear of the unknown, the anticipation of hidden risks in the future, and a mistaken belief that future management will be, at best, difficult, can paralyse the decision making such that avoidance is the preferred outcome.

The unfortunate outcome of avoidance is always going to be detrimental to both the employer and the employee. Avoidance is not the answer. The answer is active and compassionate management. Help in navigating through the complexities is available for employers to enable them to confidently and competently engage with their employees experiencing mental health challenges for the benefit of both the business and the employee.

For assistance with managing employees with mental health challenges contact Cheryl-Anne Laird, Partner of our Human Resources Division on +61 7 3218 3014 or




+ 617 3218 3900

+612 9922 1166

+613 8458 0000

Please note that this publication is intended to provide a general summary and should not be relied upon as a substitute for personal advice.