Mental health linked to productivity in small business policy
The federal government has announced specific funding for mental health assistance for small businesses.
The package is part of the government’s strong focus on small business as a key economic driver, and a recognition that mental health is linked to the productivity of the small business sector, the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Michaelia Cash said.
“I have met with hundreds of small businesses across Australia over the last few months and mental health has been a key issue raised with me, in particular by sole traders,” Ms Cash said.
“Mental health issues in small business is intrinsically linked to our nation’s economic productivity, with the estimated cost to the Australian economy each year in lost productivity due to mental health issues being $12.8 billion.”
An analysis by PwC found that Australian small businesses have a $14.50 return on investment for each $1 spent on mental health relating to the workplace.
The federal government has also tasked the Productivity Commission to conduct an inquiry into the effect of supporting mental health on economic and social participation, productivity and the Australian economy.
“One size does not fit all. We need to ensure that the support mechanisms that we have in place cater to small and family businesses of all sizes,” Ms Cash said.
The small business mental health package includes:
-$3.1 million to expand the trial of mental health organisation Everymind’s ‘Ahead for Business’ program, targeted at supporting small and family business – particularly sole proprietors;
– $500,000 as initial support for a nationwide government campaign to promote existing mental health resources for small business; and
– an inaugural small business mental health roundtable with key stakeholders across the small business and mental health sectors to inform this policy area, particularly for regional and rural Australia.
Ms Cash pointed out that current workplace mental health resources are not always suitable for small business owners.
“There are 3.3 million small and medium businesses in Australia, employing around 7 million Australians,” she said.
“We want to be sure we have the right resources in place to take care of the mental health of the Australians that are out there, building a business, growing the economy and employing other Australians.”
A survey of 440 small business owners, conducted by Everymind, showed that they had higher levels of symptoms of depression and anxiety than the national average. Stress levels were high too with 57.6 per cent falling outside the “normal” range.
The government’s Small Business Mental Health Roundtable will be held on Wednesday, 12 December.