Mental illnesses can be covered by the definition of disability in the Disability Discrimination Act.
It is against the law to discriminate against a person because of their disability. There are some limited exceptions and exemptions.
Disability discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably, or not given the same opportunities, as others in a similar situation because of their disability.’
It also occurs when an unreasonable rule or policy is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on people with a disability.
Employers should consider what reasonable adjustments, or changes to the working environment, could be made to support a worker with a mental illness to perform their duties more effectively.
Example: An employee told their employer that they had been diagnosed with anxiety. After discussing what would work best for them both, they agreed that the worker could change responsibilities to provide administrative duties rather than telephone contact with customers.
It is not unlawful discrimination to discriminate against an employee on the basis of their disability if the person cannot perform the inherent requirements of a job after reasonable adjustments have been made.
Employers also have obligations to employees with disabilities, including those with mental illness, under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and occupational health and safety legislation. Privacy legislation applies to disclosures about an employee’s personal information.