The Pros and Cons of Sharing Your Mental Health Status with an Employer
Deciding whether to share your mental health status can be a difficult decision. The following content has been developed by Heads Up, and gives information regarding the pros and cons of deciding whether to tell others about your mental health condition. While some of the information may be specific to those working in an organisation in an ongoing capacity, much of the information may still be relevant to those working show to show.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to telling people at work about your mental health condition. Whether you choose to tell others can depend on how much your condition affects your role, the amount of support you have outside the workplace and your relationships with your workmates.
If you’re considering telling others at work, we can help you weigh up the pros and cons. It can sometimes be hard to know what to do, especially if it already seems like there’s too much going on.
Pros and cons
Reasons to tell
- Is your mental health condition affecting your ability to perform your role safely? You could be putting your safety and the safety of others in danger.
- Discussing your condition gives you and your employer an opportunity to talk about any support or changes you might need to help you stay at work and/or assist your recovery.
- Making adjustments to your schedule or workload can reduce the number of sick days you need and help you be more productive when you’re at work.
- By sharing your experiences, you’re helping to change people’s attitudes, and it may mean others open up or seek support about their own struggles.
- Being open with your workmates can help to avoid rumours or gossip.
- If your performance or productivity has changed, telling your workmates means they’re more likely to be understanding.
- If you need to make a formal disability discrimination complaint at a later date, telling your employer helps to protect your rights.
- Your employer may be able to provide you with support if they are aware of your condition. Otherwise, they may misinterpret a change in your behaviour as a performance issue.
- Put yourself in your workmate’s shoes – if they were struggling, you would want them to trust and confide in you.
Reasons not to tell
- Your mental health condition may not affect your ability to do your job.
- You might not need any adjustments to your workload or schedule at the moment.
- You might be worried about potential discrimination, harassment or reduced opportunities for career progression.
- For some people, the mental health condition may pass but the label and associated stigma can be permanent.
- Some employers fail to provide an appropriate level of support or follow legislative requirements.
- You might already have adequate support networks outside the workplace and feel there’s not much to gain by talking about your condition.
- If you’re unsure about your decision, this interactive tool (opens in new window) from Heads Up can also help you decide on having the conversation (opens in new window).
Legal rights and responsibilities
Remember, you’re not legally required to tell your employer about your mental health condition, unless there’s a risk to yourself or others. If you decide to tell your employer, they have a legal responsibility to maintain your privacy (opens in new window), protect you from discrimination in the workplace and make changes to the workplace to support you.
However, unless you tell your employer about your mental health condition, it will be difficult for you to make a formal disability claim at a later stage, if you need to.
It may also be a good idea to disclose if your performance at work has become an issue, or you are facing disciplinary procedures. Likewise, if your ability to safely execute tasks or operate machinery is compromised, it’s worthwhile telling your employer regardless of whether you legally have to.