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Disclosing mental health information to your workplace
Disclosing mental health information to your workplace
Is it necessary? And if so, what's the best way to go about it? We answer your questions.
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Written by Sonder Health
Updated over a week ago

Beyond Blue report that since the introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009, disability, including physical and mental health problems has been the number one issue leading to discrimination complaints received by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

So it's understandable why an employee may be hesitant to disclose any information to their employer regarding their mental health.

While you're not legally obligated to disclose your mental health to your employer, there are instances where sharing this information can be beneficial to both parties - for example, your employer may make adjustments so you can carry out the role to the best of your ability for yourself and for the business.

When should you disclose mental health information?

It's always good to weigh up the pros and cons to sharing such personal things with your employer.

If you're needing some assistance in thinking of some of the positives, Heads Up have described some pros as being:

  • Discussing your condition gives you and your employer an opportunity to talk about any support or changes you might need to help you stay at work and/or assist your recovery.

  • Making adjustments to your schedule or workload can reduce the number of sick days you need and help you be more productive when you’re at work.

  • By sharing your experiences, you’re helping to change people’s attitudes.

  • Being open with your colleagues can help to avoid rumours or gossip.

  • If your performance or productivity has changed, telling your colleagues means they’re more likely to be understanding.

  • If you need to make a formal disability discrimination complaint at a later date, telling your employer helps to protect your rights.

What are some reasons you may not want to tell your employer?

Heads Up have also outlined that there are plenty of explanations as to why you don't need to share any mental health updates with your workplace. These include:

  • Your depression and/or anxiety may not affect your ability to do your job.

  • You might not need any adjustments to your workload or schedule at the moment.

  • You might be worried about potential discrimination, harassment or reduced opportunities for career progression.

  • For some people, the depression and/or anxiety may pass but the label and associated stigma can be permanent.

  • Some employers fail to provide the legal level of support or follow legislative requirements.

  • You might already have adequate support networks outside the workplace and feel there’s not much to gain by talking about your condition.

What are your rights surrounding mental health and the workplace?

As mentioned, you are not under any legal obligation to share this personal information.

However, know that if you do decide to open up to them, they have a legal responsibility to maintain your privacy and protect you from any workplace discrimination. They must also make changes to the workplace to support you.

What to do if you're victim of discrimination?

First know that The Fair Work Act is in place to protect any employees being discriminated against.

Workplace discrimination is when an employer takes adverse action or treatment against an employee based on their mental health and/or disability.

These adverse actions and treatment include:

  • injuring an employee during employment

  • altering the position of the employee to their detriment

  • refusing to employ someone because of their disclosure of mental health information

  • not offering an employee fair employment terms and conditions

  • dismissing an employee

  • unfairly paying an employee

  • giving an employee more unappealing/difficult duties than other people in the same role

  • verbal or physical abuse

  • isolating or excluding an employee

If you experience the above, visit Fair Work Australia to find out how the Fair Work Ombudsman can assist or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94, Mon-Fri 8:00 am-6:00 pm local time.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Article originally published by: BEYOND BLUE, HEADS UP

Image credit: Brooke Cagle on Unsplash, Tim Gouw on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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