Major retailers join forces to champion workplace mental health

Three of Australia’s largest retailers have joined forces with some of Australia’s biggest employers to tackle mental health in the workplace.

Coles Group, Woolworths Group and Bunnings Group are joined by 12 other founding members and participants to form the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia (CMHAA), which was officially launched today by Minister for Health, The Hon Greg Hunt MP.

Anchored around three strategic priorities – Provide Safe Settings, Empower Our Leaders, and Drive Lasting Change – and with the support of mental health experts, CMHAA members will work together to find, test and deliver solutions that work for their people.

Many of the groups founding members are direct competitors, but they recognise that the mental wellbeing of their employees transcends market dynamics, and that working together will give them the best chance of delivering real impact for their people.

David Brewster, Chief Legal and Safety Officer, Coles, wants to reduce the stigma that comes with talking about mental health in the workplace.

“People should be able to go to work and feel safe and comfortable to be their authentic selves, including being able to open up about their mental health.

“Coles joined the CMHAA to be part of the conversation about mental health as a large employer. We employ more than 120,000 team members and have the opportunity to make a lot of people’s lives better,” he said.

Alongside Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings, the remaining founding members and participants include Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, AIA Australia, Allianz Australia, Commonwealth Bank, Clayton Utz, King and Wood Mallesons, MinterEllison, DLA Piper, Deloitte, KPMG, Microsoft Australia and PwC Australia.

CMHAA is a business-led, expert-guided member organisation dedicated to improving mental health in the workplace for all Australians.

Its establishment comes at a time when mental health issues in the workplace are increasing.

Safe Work Australia says that 92 per cent of work related mental health claims are attributed to work pressure, harassment or bullying, workplace violence or sexual and racial harassment.

COVID-19 has further exacerbated mental health issues and Beyond Blue and Lifeline are already experiencing increases of around 30 per cent in demand for their services.

Lucy Brogden AM, Chair, National Mental Health Commission, Chair, Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, one of 15 members on CMHAA’s expert advisory group says there’s a growing awareness of the need for businesses to go beyond the ‘yoga and fruit bowl’ approach to addressing mental health in the workplace.

“The CMHAA has the potential to be a powerful voice for change on workplace mental health. It’s effectively an extensive network of mental health champions across the Australian business community, who are each saying in unison, this is really important to us. We are committed to this. We are here to be a part of the change,” she said.

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