Disclosing a mental health issue in a workplace is still a risky call for most workers, research indicates. Even though there is generally no legal duty to disclose to an employer and legal recourse if employees are discriminated against, disclosure can have its costs.
It is disheartening that there still needs to be a discussion about this topic because mental illness is so common. The National Health Survey estimates that the employment rate for Australians aged 16-64 years with a self-reported mental illness is just over 60% in comparison to the rate of 80% for people who have not reported a mental illness.
Of course it is difficult to find precise data on employment rates for those with mental health issues because some may choose not to disclose such issues.
The decision as to whether or not to disclose mental health issues is “far from trivial”, UK Professor Graham Thornicroft has pointed out. He suggests employees who are considering disclosing make “a balance sheet of the advantages and disadvantages”.
In 2012, a team of researchers in England systematically reviewed studies on the reasons why individuals decided to disclose in the workplace, setting out a series of pros and cons.
If an employee makes the decision to disclose their mental health issue and faces discrimination, there are a number of laws that protect them.