COVID-19, EMPLOYMENT AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH – WHAT CAN YOU DO?
With unemployment on the rise and showing no signs of slowing, what can you do to protect your job, avoid being dismissed and safeguard your mental health?
What is happening to employment during the COVID-19 pandemic?The coronavirus pandemic is taking many more victims than just those who contract the virus. COVID-19 also carries in its wake drastic economic impacts, which in turn have caused a massive increase in redundancies, unfair dismissals, terminations and forced resignations. The domino effect of widespread business shutdowns, particularly in Victoria facing Stage 4 restrictions, is sending ripples through society – and our mental health will incur the ramifications.
If it wasn’t enough that the fear of catching coronavirus has plunged many into an ongoing state of worry and anxiety, coupled with frequently updated restrictions on going about daily life; once you add unemployment, or the threat of unemployment to the mix, it seems quite challenging to cope with it all.
What may happen to the mental health of laid-off workers?Loss of a job or ongoing workplace issues fueled by pandemic panic is enough to exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues. However, in these unprecedented times, even those without any pre-existing conditions are not immune to mental health concerns. COVID-19 has already been linked to numerous mental health issues, including anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia.
A 2009 European study amid the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) found that every 1% increase in unemployment was correlated with a 0.79% increase in suicides in persons under the age of 65. Now, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to exacerbate mental health issues and suicide risk factors, which have the potential of causing a long-term rise in suicide rates.
The effect of the pandemic on mental health, as well as employment prospects, will not just be confined to the tumultuous year of 2020. Ordinarily in Australia, there are over 3000 suicides each year. However, it is projected that due to COVID-19, there may be a 25% annual increase in suicides for up to the next five years. This equates to an additional 750 to 1000 lives lost each year as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Studies show that those workers in geographical locations and sectors most affected by job losses, such as in rural and regional Australia, will be most greatly affected.
Young people are also projected to be significantly affected by coronavirus job losses, as a large proportion of them constitute the casual workforce in Australia (many have been casuals for years, with house and car payments) – usually some of the first to be let go when there has been a stoppage or slowing of work. Lost income and difficulty obtaining alternative employment may cause immense psychological and financial stress.
What can you do to safeguard your mental health?It is easy to get caught up in the tumult of the world around us, but it is important to remember that if you do unfairly lose your job, you have options. If you believe your redundancy was not genuine, that you were forced to resign or you were unfairly dismissed, you may be able to seek compensation through pursuing your matter through the Fair Work Commission.
If you haven’t lost your job but you are facing ongoing issues in the workplace, particularly sexual harassment and discrimination, you also have options for redress. No-one should be made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable in the workplace, and your mental health should not be made to suffer, simply to keep your job. There is no doubt some employers will try and take advantage of the situation, pay you less, make you work harder, long hours, sexual harassment is increasing. What will some employees put up with to keep their job?
As experienced workplace advisors and representatives, we can help you obtain justice and support. By seeking advice and advocacy, you can put your emotional and psychological fears at bay. COVID-19 has caused tough times for all Australians, but you are not alone in your struggle. If you have unjustly lost your source of income, or you are facing ongoing issues in your workplace, we are here for you and we will fight for the outcome you deserve. Your mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is our priority.
Call us now on 1800 333 666 to speak to someone about whether you have a potential Unfair Dismissal or General Protections claim, or to just chat about your workplace situation.