Who can you tell when you have mental health concerns for a worker?

By Jeff Salton on June 27th, 2017


In simple terms, this means that any workplace that employs five or more workers will have at least one employee who will or is currently suffering from a mental health condition.

As I said, these are simple terms, it might be more or less and can depend on the industry in which your work. Savvy employers are looking at ways to best to deal with workers who present with mental illness or take time off from work because they are suffering the effects of mental illness.

But what happens when your worker has been on sick leave on the grounds of mental illness but returns to work in a worse or similar condition to when they left?

In Victoria, for instance, under the Victorian Health Records Act 2001 and the Health Privacy Principles in that Act, there are strict laws that pertain to the collection and use of personal health information. You can disclose such information if your business reasonably believes that the disclosure is necessary to lessen or prevent a serious and imminent threat to an individual’s life, safety or welfare.

Under the Federal Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), employee records, including health information, are exempt from the requirements of the Act.

Therefore, it is likely that you could inform the next of kin about your concerns (and you may not need to disclose full details) if you have a reasonable belief that the disclosure of the information may prevent a serious and/or imminent threat to a person’s life, health, safety or welfare.

Mental health is a complex issue that increasing numbers of businesses are facing. More information about dealing with this topic can be found in the Portner Press Mental Health at Work eBook. It’s a resource designed to help you identify, further understand and minimise the potential for mental illness in your workplace.

It explains your legal obligations in regard to mental illness and recommends ways you can work towards creating a mentally healthy work environment.

This 38-page eBook is written in clear terms by three leading advisers on risk management and workplace mental health. It will help you:

  • understand mental illness;
  • be aware of the effects of mental illness on your business;
  • understand your legal obligations in regard to managing mental illness;
  • identify mental health risks among your workers;
  • understand how to minimise mental health risks in your workplace; and
  • handle a situation involving a mental health issue in your workplace.

Most business-owners, supervisors and managers are not fully-equipped to deal with mental health issues in the workplace, hence the Mental Health at Work resource is a must for every Australian business that values the health of its workers.

P.S. Don’t forget tomorrow’s Conflict and Psychosocial Risk Management workshop in Melbourne, Tuesday 27 June 9am-4.30pm in Melbourne. Health & Safety Consultant Editor-in-Chief Andrew Douglas is running this in-depth, evidence-based workshop that will help you understand how to design and build a wellbeing system that reduces psychosocial risk and fosters a positive workplace culture and civility in the face of individual and organisational conflict.

Watch this video to find out more.

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