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Breaking the stigma of Men’s Mental Health in the Workplace | Employees vs Independent Contractors


International Men’s Health Week is coming up next month and will be celebrated globally from 13th – 19th June. This is an important week to break the stigma around men’s health and gives an opportunity for employers to support the cause and promote awareness around the challenges that many men face in the community and the workplace. This year the theme will focus on Building Healthy Environments for Men and Boys and focuses on creating physically, mentally and emotionally healthy environments in the home, workplace and in social settings.

Why is Men’s Mental Health Important – The Statistics

Stereotypically men are known for bottling things up, are taught not to complain, and told to “suck it up” or “man up”. Although society has come leaps and bounds, this type of language still occurs and can cause serious harm to an individual’s mental health. Men’s Health Week is a timely reminder for employers to look at their approach to mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Statistics show that around 5 men per day take their own lives (1), on average one in eight men will experience depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives (2).

“This Is A Conversation Starter” (TIACS) is an organisation dedicated to start conversations surrounding men’s mental health among blue collar workers and provide statistics on the types of calls they receive; in the last 30 days the majority of their calls have been about (3):

How can businesses help?

The workplace has a significant impact on the mental health of employees and as business owners you have control of whether this impact is positive or negative. Employers should be actively advocating for mental health in the workplace and promoting to men that there is nothing wrong with speaking up if they are struggling. A few things you can do are:

1. Workplace culture - An open and communicative workplace culture is crucial in helping men feel comfortable in raising concerns, from simple illnesses though to stress, anxiety and depression.

2. Promote work life balance – Unfortunately there is still a stigma that men have to be the breadwinners in the family, often resulting in working longer hours, taking on extra work and not speaking up when the pressure becomes too much. It is important to educate and promote a good balance for all team members.

3. Flexible arrangements – It’s not surprising to see that men request flexibility arrangements half as often as women do in the workplace, even if they are parents, they are just less likely to bring it up(4). It is important to have open conversations with your male employees as well, so they know that there are options available to them

4. Health and wellness benefits – Last month we talked about a healthy workplace and how you can achieve this including implementing an Employee Assistance Program, getting physical, providing free health incentives and regular time off. For a full list of benefits you can implement click here

5. HR Policies - You should also make sure that you have the proper policies in place such as Workplace Health and Safety, Health and Wellbeing, Bullying and Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Leave / Parental Leave.

Reach out

Arguably the most important thing that you can do for your employees is encouraging them to reach out to support services. As employers, you can’t be expected to be phycologists however you do have a duty of care to your employees so recommending sound resources is the next best thing. Support services can include referring them to their GP to get 10 sessions a year with a mental health provider or recommending organisations such as Lifeline, Black Dog Institute, This Is A Conversation Starter (TIACS) and Beyondblue who provide crisis counselling and resources are available to all Australians.

As the famous New Zealand comedian-turned-mental health advocate Mike King said, mental health is just like physical health, we focus on physical health through diet, exercise and seeking medical support we need to, so why not encourage our men and boys to do it for their mental health too.


The distinction between employees and independent contractors has been an age old debate but off the back of two recent Australian high court rulings, it’s the hot topic of employment news. There is an increasing amount of people coming forward claiming that their contractor arrangement was actually an employment relationship which means that SME’s are more at risk than ever before and properly defining your employment relationships is crucial in protecting your business.

In Australia, there is no legal definition of an employee or a contractor however, in theory, Independent Contractors have the freedom to negotiate the terms of their services which include running their own business, setting their own hours, supplying their own tools and having a high level control over the work they do. An employee is someone who works at the direction of their employer including but not limited to hours, salary, work location, leave entitlements and performance.

Sham Contracting

When hiring independent contractors’ employers need to ensure that that the relationship is not considered sham contracting, this is where an employer has misrepresented the employee/employer relationship as they don’t want the responsibility of paying for entitlements such as leave, workers compensation, long service and superannuation but still have a high level of control over the contractors work.

In two recent cases heard by the Australian high court (ZG Operations & Anor V Jamsek & Ors and Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union & Anor v Personnel Contracting)the rulings made it clear that a key factor in protecting the businesses from sham contractor claims was having the relationship well written and agreed upon in contracts.

What should be businesses be aware of?

To keep themselves covered, businesses need to consider the below factors when determining if a genuine contractor relationship exists:

  • Does the business have a high level of control over the contractors work and how it is performed?

  • Does the business control the hours of work?

  • Is there an expectation of ongoing work?

  • Does the business provide the tools and equipment ?

  • Does the contractor receive entitlements, such as annual or personal leave?

  • Is there limited capacity for the contractor to work for other businesses?

If you have answered yes to any of these factors, you may be inadvertently sham contracting. Along with considering these factors, businesses also need to make sure there are well drafted full written agreements in place that specify the relationship and set out the rights and obligations of both parties. This means that contactors cannot later claim they are entitled to payments such as overtime, minimum rates, leave and superannuation.

It is also important to review and reassess existing contractor arrangements on a regular basis to ensure that the terms are relevant, and all arrangements are clearly set out.

For advice around independent contractors or for a review of your agreements, please reach out to your Streamline HR consultant.

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