Lack of Workplace Support Costing Jobs: SANE Australia
25 August 2011 at 1:02 pm
A new study by SANE Australia finds that most Australians with a mental illness receive little support at work, and more than half those surveyed did not believe their manager had an understanding of mental illness and its impact in the workplace.
The survey by national mental health charity SANE Australia found that 95 per cent of respondents said employers and managers needed education on mental illness, and training on how to manage its effects in the workplace.
While more than 60 percent of respondents reported that their mental illness had not been a barrier for them in finding a job, the majority said that no support had been provided to them once they were in a job.
SANE Australia’s Executive Director, Barbara Hocking says that with one in five Australians experiencing some form of mental illness every year, the report reveals a significant number of people who face difficulties in the workplace.
Hocking says the survey paints a concerning and unsatisfactory picture of Australian workplaces with many employees, including those who care for a family member with a mental illness, being disadvantaged by a lack of flexibility, such as being able to work part-time, to work from home at times or to have adjustments made in the workplace.
As a result, she says businesses lose experienced employees and have to spend time and money investing in new people.
SANE Australia’s Working life and mental illness study found that three quarters of the 520 respondents surveyed had never received information or help from government programs designed to assist workers to maintain their job.
The report says the survey reveals an encouraging sign that two thirds of respondents had disclosed their illness to their employer or manager. Not disclosing, often because of fear of losing a job, increases stress and prevents access to the very support that can promote successful employment.
According to Hocking there is an overwhelming need for education and training in the workplace about mental illness and its effects.
She says Australia needs “mentally healthy workplaces” where stigma is reduced and employees with a mental illness can ask for support without prejudice and to work with employers, managers and co-workers to reduce the misunderstanding and stress associated with mental illness, so it is treated in the same way as physical illness.
As Federal Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler, has acknowledged, Australia employs fewer people with a mental illness than many other countries.
The Research Bulletin’s findings support recommendations SANE Australia made in a recent submission to the Senate Inquiry into mental health and workforce participation. In its submission, SANE Australia called for:
- The removal of barriers to employment;
- Ongoing support to find and keep a job;
- Improved access to employment agencies and rehabilitation services;
- Improvements to enable greater ease of disclosure and
- Workplace education enabling managers and co-workers to supervise, work alongside and – when necessary – to support a colleague with a mental illness.