We have previously discussed mental health in the workplace, how to spot the warning signs and effectively help your employees manage mental health issues at work.

Appropriately managing mental health can not only deliver positive outcomes for both the employee and the employer, but is also a requirement under Australian law. OHS legislation states that employers must provide a workplace that is safe for all employees, not aggravate any existing conditions, or cause ill health. This includes the employer ensuring employees with mental illness are not discriminated against and reasonable adjustments are made to meet the needs of those experiencing ill health.

With statistics showing one in five Australians will experience mental illness at some point during their adult life, it is likely employers will encounter mental health issues in the workplace that need to be carefully managed. Due to the nature of mental health, often issues may go unnoticed until highlighted by a performance management procedure or during an employee’s probation period.

How can you effectively performance manage an employee when their mental health is brought up during the performance management process?

  • Aim for a fair and transparent performance management process
    • Make sure you gather all the facts around the situation
    • Clearly define expectations and set realistic and achievable goals
  • Documentation – maintain detailed notes of all discussions and have the employee sign to acknowledge the discussion and any actions agreed upon
  • Where possible, separate the mental health issue from the performance issue
    • Investigate if there are any workplace factors impacting the mental health issues (eg. Bullying in the workplace)
    • Understand the employee still has a right to privacy and in what circumstances you can request full information about the employees’ mental illness
    • Seek and provide practical support for the employee’s mental health issues
    • Offer feedback and counselling, such as access to an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) if accessible
  • Provide an opportunity for the employee to have a support person present during all performance management meetings
  • Know when an external mediator can assist in the performance management process
  • Notice any mental health warning signs? Intervene early and be proactive in your approach

To understand how you should best carry out the performance management process, you’ll need to ask questions such as;

  • At was stage was the mental illness known, or disclosed during the performance management process?
  • What external factors could be affecting them?
  • Has workplace change affected this person?
  • How have they performed previously in their role and how has the employees’ performance changed?

By gaining in-depth understanding of the employees’ situation you can provide effective support throughout the performance management process that reaches a suitable a resolution.

Mental health is a complex issue and our suggestions above are given as general advice. When in doubt, we recommend you refer to a medical professional. If you or any of your employees are experiencing mental health issues, you can contact beyond blue on 1300 224 636 to obtain practical assistance for you and the employee.

Need some advice on how to better your performance management processes? Contact one of our HR consultants today to find out how we can help you today!