The Commissioner for Public Sector Employment Office of the Public Employment and Review in collaboration with the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) are holding a forum on Mental Health and the Workplace.

This forum will consider mental health in the workplace, strategies to aid Employees and Managers and also cover relevant public sector legislation and policy. The South Australian Public Sector has a workforce of approximately 100,000 people. Based on Statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008 (National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing) – this means that 6,200 of those people may be suffering from depression and 14,400 may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

A mentally healthy workplace protects and promotes mental health and empowers people to seek help for depression and anxiety, for the benefits of the individual, organisation and community.

The Hon Minister O’Brien, Minister for the Public Sector and Minister for Finance will open this forum and the MC, speakers and panellists are as follows:

  • Ms Anne Burgess (MC) – Assistant Commissioner, Public Sector Grievance Review Commission
  • Mr Warren McCann – Commissioner for Public Sector Employment
  • Professor Michael Kidd AM – Board Directorbeyondblue, and Executive Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Flinders University
  • Ms Therese Fitzpatrick – Workforce and Workplace Program Leader, beyondblue
  • Mr Craig Stevens – Managing Solicitor, Crown Solicitor’s Office
  • Dr John Brayley – Public Advocate, Office of the Public Advocate, Attorney General’s Department

This forum will consider strategies to aid employees and managers and also cover relevant Public Sector legislation and policy.  Referring an employee for a medical examination, particularly in the case of mental incapacity, can be distressing for the employee and colleagues and sometimes for the family of the employee.  It can however be a useful strategy to inform the formulation of management options best fitted to the circumstances and possible limitations of the employee.
Some questions that will be answered during the Mental health and the Workplace forum are:

  • What makes a mentally healthy workplace?
  • How do you recognise the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders?
  • How can managers, human resource practitioners and colleagues best support employees with a mental health problem?
  • How can this best be handled?
  • Should a medical examination be an option of last resort or can it be a useful tool to provide support to employees?
  • What about confidentiality, natural justice, process and procedural fairness?

Mr Warren McCann, Commissioner for Public Sector Employment will introduce the new Guidelines that have been prepared to assist Chief Executives and Managers involved in the consideration of possible reliance on Section 56.

 

Mental Health and the Workplace

Depression and anxiety disorders are common. Each year in Australia about one million adults experience depression and two million experience an anxiety disorder.

It can be difficult for people to admit they have depression or an anxiety disorder, and many people with these conditions are afraid to speak up at work in case they are treated differently. The actions of colleagues and managers can make a real difference to a person with a mental health problem.

The South Australian Public Sector has a workforce of approximately 100,000 people. Based on Statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008 (National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing)- this means that 6,200 of those people may be suffering from depression and 14,400 may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

A mentally healthy workplace protects and promotes mental health and empowers people to seek help for depression and anxiety, for the benefits of the individual, organisation and community.

The forum will consider mental health in the workplace, strategies to aid employees and managers and also cover relevant public sector legislation and policy. The forum is targeted at public sector human resource professionals and managers.

The Workplace

  • What makes a mentally healthy workplace
  • How to recognise the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders
  • How can managers, human resource practitioners and colleagues best support employees with a mental health problem

Legislation and Policy

Section 56 of the Public Sector Act 2009 enables the Chief Executive of an agency (or their delegate) to require an employee to undergo a medical examination by a medical practitioner in circumstances where they believe that the employee’s unsatisfactory performance may be caused by a mental or physical incapacity. Other public sector employment legislation in South Australia contains similar provisions. The power is a discretionary one.

The Commissioner for Public Sector Employment has prepared a guideline to assist Chief Executives and managers involved in the consideration of possible reliance on Section 56. Referring an employee for a medical examination, particularly in the case of mental incapacity, can be distressing for the employee and colleagues and sometimes for the family of the employee. It can however be a useful strategy to inform the formulation of management options best fitted to the circumstances and possible limitations of the employee.

How can this best be handled? Should a medical examination be an option of last resort or can it be a useful tool to provide support to employees? What about confidentiality, natural justice, process and procedural fairness?