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Light at the end of the tunnel; but SME mental health at a breaking point

The economic, social and individual importance of mental health has never been more prominent than now.

Today, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has released a report, Small Business, Mental Health; navigating the complex landscape, highlighting the unique challenges small businesses face in managing their own mental health, their employee’s mental health and the myriad of intersecting workplace regulations.

The report reveals:

  • Small business owners self-report stress levels and rates of mental ill-health that are higher now than in comparison to before the pandemic.
  • The current regulatory landscape relevant to managing and supporting mental health at work is increasingly complex, noting there are five primary pieces of legislation to comply with.
  • An increasing trend of regulation, coupled with the increasing pressure COVID has created on small business owners and their employees, is not sustainable.
  • Small businesses are not receiving the compliance assistance and general support that they want.
  • A broad comprehensive strategy and further targeted support is needed to promote increased employment and participation of those with a mental health disorder.

The report’s findings were supported by a series of surveys by ACCI and our members throughout 2020 and 2021.

ACCI Director WHS and Health Policy, Jennifer Low:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched already thin resources to breaking point. Small business owners have had to juggle managing the mental health and safety of their employees, while being mindful of their own mental health, all within what was an already complex operating environment.

“We need governments to not only provide mental health services and support but to acknowledge and address the fact that regulations surrounding the management of mental health in Australian businesses are complex and daunting for employers, particularly small business.

“If action is not taken to streamline and simplify workplace regulation in the context of managing mental health, psychological risk and injury as well as employing people with disability, we will only continue to see poor health and productivity outcomes for businesses and individuals.

ACCI Chief Executive, Andrew McKellar:

“In rebuilding the economy after the damage COVID has inflicted over the last two years, support for small business will be vital, as will increasing overall workforce participation.

“It is critical that governments work with small business to get the legal and regulatory environments right – when the implications have such significant consequences on the mental health of individuals and our economy.

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