Meeting your duties
Supporting mental health at work can have a positive and even profound impact on the lives of your workers, their families and in their communities.
Leading by example, designing work to support mental health, shaping a positive culture, managing workplace factors, learning and support are some of the ways you, your workers and business can all grow together. Take steps today to help people and your workplace thrive: we’ve got all the tools you need to kick off this exciting and rewarding journey.
There are laws in place to support mental health and provide healthy and safe workplaces for everyone. In this section you'll find resources to help you understand and meet your obligations as an employer or business owner.
Employers and business owners have a legal responsibility to ensure healthy and safe workplaces. This includes, so far as is reasonably practicable, preventing or removing workplace factors (risks) to both physical and psychological safety, and where it is not possible to do so, reducing these factors and their impact.
When it comes to mental health, other legal responsibilities include avoiding discrimination and respecting privacy. These obligations are not only covered by law, but are also expected by the community, making them moral expectations as well as legal responsibilities.
SafeWork NSW has clear and concise information related to your legal obligations and how to do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of everyone in your workplace:
This video explains what ‘reasonably practicable’ means, what it looks like in practice and why you should support mental health at work and how.
Video courtesy of Safe Work Australia, duration: 9:12.
To prevent and manage harm to workers’ psychological health, use the guide to work related psychological health and safety from Safe Work Australia.
There is also a supporting video.
Video courtesy of Safe Work Australia, duration: 34:34
You can use this guide to manage psychological health and safety to:
- prevent harm by identifying, assessing, managing and reviewing workplace factors also known as risks
- talk to your workers to identify factors affecting them at work and possible actions to prevent or reduce their impact
- identify early signs of mental ill-health in your workers and intervene early to connect them with the support they need
- support recovery during mental ill-health or illness.
- NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017
- Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009
- Safe Work Australia – guidance on meeting your duties
- Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977
- Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998
- Workers Compensation Act 1987.
An employer of a worker recovering at work or returning to work following a psychological injury arising from work will also have obligations under NSW workers compensation legislation – for instance, they may be required to provide suitable alternative employment to the worker. Find out more about your duties in supporting workers to recover at work.
Under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act, an employer or business can’t discriminate against someone for having a mental illness if they can carry out the inherent requirements or essential duties of the job.
Discrimination can mean treating someone less favourably, or not giving them the same opportunities as others in a similar situation, because of their mental illness. It also includes an unreasonable rule or policy that is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on people with a mental illness. This is explained by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Discrimination can also mean failing to provide reasonable adjustments to a person with a mental illness. To provide a fair workplace, free from discrimination, employers and businesses should support workers with mental illness to continue to do their jobs safely and productively, and to support their recovery. Read more about reasonable workplace adjustments and read these examples.
The Fair Work Ombudsman states, under the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 discrimination occurs in the workplace when an employer or business takes adverse action against a worker or prospective worker because of a protected attribute, such as a mental illness.
Some employers have obligations under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988, you should make sure personal information disclosed by workers, including information about their mental illness, is kept private and confidential. Employers who hold health information, including information about the mental health of an individual, will be subject to the requirements of the NSW Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002. Find out more.
Sharing this tool broadly with your workers may help them to decide whether to talk about their mental ill-health or illness at work.
Read more about your rights and responsibilities as an employer or business from these sources.
If you have questions about mental health at work call SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for:
- information and resources on mental health at work and workplace factors
- to report unsafe work practices
- to report notifiable incidents like serious work-related injuries
- information and resources to support vulnerable workers.