Mental health funding means little with no action on prevention

The ACTU is calling for urgent action on workplace mental health as the Australia Institute and Centre for Future Work released a damning report today that found poor workplace practices that cause mental health issues costs the economy $200-220 billion per year.

Whilst unions welcome the budget measures for mental health services it is clear that more needs to be done on prevention. Mental health injuries are the fastest, and one of the only growing injury types in our workers compensation system. The Morrison Government has failed to implement preventative measures to stop mental health injuries from occurring in the first place, especially in workplaces.

Today’s report has found that up to 45 per cent of mental health problems experienced by working people are attributed to workplace conditions. This data confirms a significant increases in mental health problems since the pandemic and subsequent recession hit.

Workplace mental health hazards include unreasonable job demands, exposure to violence and trauma, long or irregular working hours, absence of worker voice or control, and bullying and harassment (including sexual harassment). Strengthening and clarifying the existing legal responsibility of employers to minimise mental illness risks could save the economy an estimated minimum of $15.8 billion each year through reduced health expenditure and improved productivity. The report highlights that not only is action on workplace good for workers, the budget and the economy it is also good for business.

On the 20th of May Work Health and Safety (WHS) Ministers from the States, Territories and the Federal Government will vote on key changes to WHS laws. Minister Cash can use her vote – likely the deciding one – to support changes to WHS laws that would finally require employers to identify and address risks to mental health, in the same way they are required to with risks to physical health. If the coalition is serious about psychological health we expect Minister Cash to support these changes.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien:

“We call on Minister Cash to use her deciding vote at the upcoming meeting of WHS ministers to ensure employers address mental health hazards the same as physical health hazards.

“The Government has thrown billions at mental health services but is failing to prevent mental illness or sexual harassment occurring in workplaces.

“Up to 45 per cent of mental health problems experienced by working people are attributed to workplace conditions which costs the economy an estimated minimum of $15.8 billion per year. Our WHS ministers must act”.

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