Minimum Standards – explained

We created the Minimum Standards as a guideline for employers in our industry to clearly and publicly commit to supporting their people on key areas that affect mental health.

We found through our discussions:

  • Most people aren’t aware of their rights under the law when it comes to disclosing a mental illness and the information isn’t easily accessible for those not familiar with legal jargon;
  • Employers want to do the right thing and support their people’s mental health but not every organisation or business leader knows where to start; and
  • People in our industry are looking to their employers to take a stance on mental health and support them.

We believe introducing the Minimum Standards can help clarify expectations and set some ground rules in this space.

Signing up to the Minimum Standards is a purely voluntary opt-in initiative for leaders and organisations with no legal implications. However, leaders who sign up should be aware of the reputational risk associated with publicly getting behind the standards should this not be  the reality their employees are experiencing in the workplace.


Unpacking the standards…

Standard 1:

We don't expect our people to be connected to work when on annual, sick or carers leave, this includes sending or responding to emails and taking calls. When on leave, you should be having a break and truly disconnecting from work. If you do have critical matters to respond to or be involved in, be disciplined about only engaging in what is necessary.”

Not being able to ‘disconnect’ from work is one of the leading causes of stress as per the 2018 Mentally Healthy Survey.  As such, we believe setting a standard around availability/ being contactable while on leave is important to set the expectation the organisation respects peoples’ personal lives & time. Conversely, we think it is important employees take responsibility to be disciplined with that they engage in.

In this space, the leader’s behaviour is critical. If as a leader, you aren’t disconnecting from work yourself and setting the example, it will be incredibly hard for your staff to feel empowered to do so.

Standard 2:

Our industry can be unpredictable at times. We may ask our people to work on weekends for exceptional projects / pitches. However, we don’t expect our people to do so consistently and will offer time in lieu should this happen. The same goes for significant and continued overtime.”

The expectation to work ‘overtime’ is one which causes frustration for employees and discomfort for employers – how much is okay vs how much is too much is somewhat vague.

However, we shouldn’t, as employers, be afraid to talk about overtime with our employees so long as we are considered in how we do so. Legally, an employer can request that an employee works reasonable overtime, and this is often included in employments contracts.

However, if we are serious about looking after our people, we need to get better at talking honestly about our expectations of them when things are busy, the business is short staffed, etc. Formally communicating to employees that overtime may be required, but that we’re not using it as an excuse to exploit them is critical! If the business needs employees to work overtime consistently or beyond what is deemed ‘reasonable’, we need to be prepared to talk about how our businesses are resourced or at the very least, offer time in lieu.

We should also be mindful that employees are entitled to refuse to work overtime if it is deemed unreasonable - however we must make it possible for them to voice this concern and not discriminate against them should they do so.

Standard 3:

We commit to protecting our people’s privacy if they disclose a mental health condition and to respect an appropriate level of confidentiality.”

This standard directly echoes employers’ responsibility under the Privacy act. However, we believe that formally acknowledging this in the standards is part of fostering a culture that is supportive and makes people to feel comfortable to share with their manager for the purpose of being better supported.

Standard 4:

We support people who disclose mental health issues and commit to not victimising them, discriminating against them or making them feel less for it.”

This standard directly echoes employers’ responsibility under Anti-Discrimination law. We believe that formally acknowledging it contributes to reducing the stigma around Mental Health in the workplace.

Standard 5:

We have zero tolerance for people who do not abide by these standards.”

This standard was written to strengthen the organisation’s commitment.

Ultimately, compliance with these standards cannot sit with anyone else than the employer but all staff members play a role in creating a mentally healthy workplace through their behaviour. Each business leader who signs up to the standards needs to be committed to acting on any instances of discrimination, breach of privacy, victimisation, etc.

Standard 6:

If our people disclose a mental health concern at work, we commit to providing reasonable adjustments to their role or working environment to make allowances for their mental health condition.”

This standard directly echoes employers’ responsibility to provide reasonable adjustments to support staff with mental illness. For many people experiencing mental health conditions, small changes to the working environment can be enough to ensure their have an equal opportunity to perform the requirements of the role. When working with the employee to develop strategies for adjustments, it is important to determine which aspects of the job the employee is having difficulties with.

Standard 7:

We support people who disclose mental health issues and understand where to direct people to benefit from more help.”

The Mentally Healthy website is a great resource to direct your employees to. Additionally, you may have an Employee Assistance Program which can also support.

Standard 8:

We provide clarity on priorities and goals so that our people understand how they contribute to the organisation’s success and progress in their role.”

The Mentally Healthy 2018 study found a strong link between job satisfaction and good mental health. Clarity on expectations is one of the easiest, yet most effective ways to positively support employee satisfaction and sense of achievement. We believe this is one of the building blocks of fostering a supportive culture where people thrive.

Standard 9:

We commit to providing workplaces that are psychologically safe and supportive of individual differences.”

This standard was written to strengthen the organisation’s commitment but also echoes the employer’s responsibility to their employee’s Health and Safety at work.

Standard 10:

We commit to ongoing discussions about mental wellness to ensure that it is a normal part of our everyday.”

Finally, the last standard is a commitment from the organisation to opening up a dialogue about mental health so that those that need help will feel comfortable and supported to open up. Open discussion is key in helping smash the stigma around mental health in organisations and across our industry.  

If you have any further questions or comments about the Minimum Standards, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

If you’ve already signed or are planning to… check our our assets page where you can download social images and posters.


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