Your questions answered: How should we approach an employee who appears depressed?

By Portner Press on January 22nd, 2020
  1. Employee health & wellbeing
  2. Mental Health

I have a question about our responsibility as an employer if you notice that an employee may be suffering with depression that is not related to work.

I don’t know if we should direct him to seek medical/psychological help. As I have indicated this hasn’t been caused by stress at work, or because one of his colleagues is bothering him, therefore we don’t know what to do.

How can we deal with this situation if it is more personal than work related?

Employers have a general duty of care to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees of the employer a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

However, in circumstances where you suspect an employee may be suffering from non-work related depression the steps you can take will depend on whether the employee agrees that there is a medical condition needing attention.

If an employee’s mental health is significantly impacting on their ability to safely perform work, it may be appropriate to require an employee to satisfy you that they are safe to perform work and are able to fulfil the requirements of their role. This does not appear to be the case here.

General management and support for employees with mental distress

A report prepared by Monash University provides a summary of the available tools that may be used to support recovery at work and return to work for those suffering mental distress:

Should you wish to learn more about managing and supporting employees with mental distress, please refer to the tools in the above link, particularly the ones listed under ‘tools for the employer’ in Appendix 2.

WorkSafe Victoria also has a ‘WorkWell’ Toolkit, to assist employers to create mentally well workplaces:

Alternatively, if you have any Employee Assistance Program services available, it may be appropriate to refer the employee to those services, or otherwise encourage the employee to seek out mental health services.

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