Recent Federal Court cases have raised serious questions around when directors may find themselves facing personal penalties. It appears directors may be personally liable for issues in the work place even if their company does not break any laws. If the company is found to be at risk of breaking any laws, then directors and business owners could be in trouble,” Mr Diaz said today.

These recent cases mark quite a change in the way directors, owners and managers are seen by the courts.

Mental health is a serious issue in the work place and becoming a bigger issue for businesses.

The increased pressure of cost cutting and doing more with less, is placing significant strain, stress and pressure on staff across the country.

Many Australian businesses are competing against multi-nationals who are able to source cheaper labour overseas and invest in technology to systemise and computerise activities normally undertaken by humans. As a result, jobs are being lost, outsourced and off-shored.

This level of change, pressure and disruption in the work place combined with more challenging front line issues is creating significant stress for workers and work places generally.

It is no surprise that the presence of mental health issues in the workplace is on the rise.

While many companies have targets and programs to deal with work place accidents and other issues such as bullying and harassment, most do not have programs to deal with mental health issues.

Mental health issues silently affect absenteeism, productivity, morale, customer service and many other areas of a business. In effect, they cause financial loss.

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Unless companies start taking work place mental health seriously, we are going to see a rise in the number of claims against directors and business owners from staff who feel their mental health has been damaged due to poor work place practices or a lack of regard for the mental health of staff in the work place.

Managers are not trained to deal with mental health issues, they are trained to be managers and administrators. Their focus is generally operational and business related.

In the last few years, we have worked with many organisations to develop and implement programs to address and manage mental health issues in the work place.

Some of these have included organisations with large contingents of front line staff who are required to deal with angry and stressed members of the general public.  Others include businesses where there is a fair degree of pressure, particularly sales environments.

Our work involves assisting organisations to identify the risks, implement programs, train managers and establish systems to enable monitoring and action.

Organisations must start incorporating mental health into their corporate wellness programs and implementing mental health management planning and support systems into their work place strategies to support staff at all levels.  If they don’t directors and business owners may find themselves losing their homes or even worse, facing jail time. Mental health issues are just as serious as physical health issues, it is just that they can be a bit more difficult to recognise.

It’s time.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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