How can we create inclusive workplaces for people with physical and mental health challenges?

What’s the problem?

Being able to participate in employment, education, and the community, as well as having access to social networks, affordable housing, services and support are all important components of personal wellbeing.

Alt text Enabling people with a mental or physical health challenge to realise their full potential and contribute productively to society not only improves their personal wellbeing but contributes to wider social wellbeing as well. However, people with mental or physical ill health are often prevented from fully participating in the labour force or effectively interacting in the community due to their condition.

Perversely, resulting social isolation can contribute to further health issues. On the flip side, while it is often presumed that a worker’s mental illness develops outside of the workplace, an ‘unhealthy’ workplace can exacerbate, or contribute to, the development of mental illness.

Seven things you need to know

  • In each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness. Despite this, nearly half of all senior managers believe none of their workers will experience a mental health problem at work. Most managers, whether they realise it or not, will supervise a worker with mental illness at some point in their career

  • Mental illnesses are the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia, accounting for an estimated 27% of the total years lost due to disability.

  • Around 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, while one in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year.

  • Paid employment provides income and is important to the economic wellbeing of individuals and society, but it also provides security and an opportunity for social engagement.

  • In 2014, people aged 15-64 years with a mental health condition were less attached to the labour force than those without, with fewer people employed (59% compared with 78%) and more unemployed (7.4% compared with 4.5%).

  • ABS also found that people with a mental health condition were almost twice as likely as those without to have experienced some form of discrimination (29% compared with 16%) and twice as likely to have experienced two or more incidents of crime in the last 12 months (12% compared with 5.9%).

  • Disability can also impact a person's access to services and participation in social or community activities. ABS found that, when compared with people who did not have disability, people with disability were:

less likely to have had daily face-to-face contact with family or friends living outside the household (16% compared with 20%)

more likely to feel that people could not be trusted (34% compared with 24%)

more likely to experience some form of discrimination (23% compared with 17%)

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