Issues related to mental health, including depression, in the workplace have not always garnered the necessary sympathy or response from employers compared to physical issues, but this is changing say HR and HCM experts at CRS Technologies.
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Nicol Myburgh, Head: Human Resource Business Unit at CRS Technologies, says there has been a stigma about mental health in the labour market.
“Employers don’t really understand it or sympathise as they do with physical health issues, likely because physical health is clear and apparent, while mental health is not.”
However, the situation is changing, primarily because of the ability to hold employers to account for any discrimination against depression using Employment Equity Act, Chapter 2, Section 6 (1).
As Myburgh explains, while the Basic Conditions of Employment Act does not offer protection for employers with mental health related issues, they are protected in terms of the Employment Equity Act.
This legislation states, “No person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against an employee in any employment policy or practice, on one or more grounds including race, gender, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, HIV status, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language, and birth.”
Additionally employees are protected by the Labour Relations Act, section 187(1)(f) of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) says that: "A dismissal is automatically unfair if the reason for the dismissal is that the employer unfairly discriminated against an employee, directly or indirectly, on any arbitrary ground, including, but not limited to race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language, marital status or family responsibility."
Moreover, as Myburgh points out, South Africa’s labour market has kept up with international trends covering disability and has now implemented the ‘Code of Good Practice on Key Aspects of Disability in the Workplace’ issued in 2001.
CRS Technologies advises any employer considering dismissing an employee for anything related to health issues or any other disability, to tread carefully and if there is any uncertainty, to rather seek assistance from experienced, credible consultants.