A University of Tasmania business and economics expert has suggested businesses need to become more integrated with public and private health services to boost workforce productivity for people who deal with mental health issues.
Tasmanian School of Business adjunct professor Angela Martin has written to the Productivity Commission, which has been tasked to examine the effect mental health has on the ability of people to participate more within workplaces and communities.
The commission will also examine how governments and employers can better provide for people with mental health issues along with healthcare, education, employment, social service organisations.
Professor Martin said social isolation was at a “critical level” across the country and workplaces provided a social environment while independent workers may lacked such opportunities.
She emphasised businesses and organisations needed to engage more in psychological health education whether it be through online and personal contact, realistic job previews for potential workers, and that employers needed to recognise the importance of mental health check-ups and encourage people at risk to seek professional help early.
Professor Martin said these matters should be integrated into occupational health and safety policies broadly.
She said cultural diversity had presented itself as a risk factor as a large segment of migrant-owned businesses lacked prior experiences concepts of occupational health and mental health concepts.
The Tasmanian School of Business in 2017 released a white paper that called for an integrated approach to mental health in the workplace.
The report found present efforts were “largely disconnected, ad hoc and focused on individual workplaces, rather than on achieving systematic and sustainable change” and employers should be required prevent harm, promote the positive and respond to illness.
Professor Martin said a 2013 study showed 36.8 per cent of small business owners and managers reported cases of high psychological distress.
Of this cohort surveyed, close to 40 per cent reported absenteeism in the past month, 82.5 per cent presented to work in an unfit state but felt 50 per cent less productive as usual.
The commission will be accepting initial submissions until April 5.
A final report is due to be handed to the federal government in May 2020.