Minister for Health, Greg Hunt recently joined leaders from some of Australia’s largest employers to launch the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia (CMHAA), a new business-led, expert-guided member organisation dedicated to improving mental health in the workplace.

The Alliance’s 15 founding members recognise that the mental wellbeing of their employees transcends market dynamics, and that working together will give them the best chance of delivering real impact for their people.

These members and participants include AIA Australia, Allianz Australia, Bunnings Group, Clayton Utz, Coles Group, Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte, DLA Piper, Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, King & Wood Mallesons, KPMG, Microsoft Australia, MinterEllison, Woolworths Group and PwC Australia.

According to Safe Work Australia, more than 92% of work-related mental health condition claims can be attributed to work-related mental stress including work pressure, harassment or bullying, exposure to workplace violence and sexual or racial harassment. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased anxiety and uncertainty, self-isolation, family stress and financial hardship. Further, lockdown restrictions and social isolation measures have changed the boundaries of the ‘workplace’ and demand for mental health services is rising.

Microsoft Australia managing director and CMHAA chair, Steven Worrall said now more than ever, businesses across the board need to come together and take collective responsibility for creating mentally healthy workplaces.

“We can do this firstly by sharing what we’re each doing in the workplace to support our people’s mental health and wellbeing. None of us think we have all the answers, but we’re all doing lots of things, and in many cases, lots of really good things. It’s on us as leaders to put mental health at the heart of the business agenda, and to bring our collective experience and resources to the attention of other businesses looking to make improvements in this area. We are an alliance for all businesses, large and small alike.”

Coles chief legal and safety officer, David Brewster wants to reduce the stigma that comes with talking about mental health in the workplace, “People should be able to go to work and feel safe and comfortable to be their authentic selves, including being able to open up about their mental health.

“Coles joined the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia to be part of the conversation about mental health as a large employer. We employ more than 120,000 team members and have the opportunity to make a lot of people’s lives better.”

Bunnings Group Limited regional operations manager for Queensland South, Marg Walford has a clear view of the range of issues experienced by employees in the workplace.

“Our aim is that every team member feels comfortable talking about mental health, is supported by their leaders and teammates and is aware and able to access the great resources we have available. This begins with equipping our leaders, at all levels, to provide ongoing support in a safe and purposeful working environment. We continually invest in our team’s training and resources to equip them with the necessary skills and tools to handle any given situation.”

CMHAA is receiving expressions of interest for membership beginning in 2021.