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The benefits of investing in workplace health and well-being.

There are many reasons to invest in your team, and now the law requires it as well.



It is no secret that healthy and engaged employees are more productive at work, and provide a higher output of service to customers. Healthy people are less likely to take time off for any on-going conditions and are less likely to use sick leave. Healthy and engaged employees are more likely to positively contribute to a workplace, which in turn leads to a healthier, happier and more productive culture. In turn, a positive culture means less time is spent on HR issues or being reactive to situations that do not move the business forward. Anecdotally, business owners report spending far too much time sorting out “HR issues” when they would prefer their time being spent on driving the business forward/innovation.

Investing in your team does not have to be onerous or cost the earth. The return on investment is indisputable – especially when compared to the time and cost headache of sorting culture issues, recruiting when good people leave, or legal advice to sort employment issues. A PWC survey on wellness programmes showed that such programmes have a $3 return for every $1 spent.

The law has also put a renewed focus onto mental health and well-being. There are now strict obligations on employers through the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Employment Court decision in the case of RST v FGH.


The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires employers to take all reasonable practicable steps to provide a safe and healthy workplace. “Health” is defined in the Act as both a person’s physical and mental health, which means the employer must be aware and alert for things like workplace bullying and/or fatigue or stress caused by over-work. If the employer fails to meet its legal requirements under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, then the employee can raise a personal grievance against the employer, pursuant to the Employment Relations Act 2000. An employee can also make a complaint to Worksafe.

Further, in the case of RST v FGH, the court made it clear that known mental health conditions of employees must be taken into account by employers and be treated with a primary focus in the workplace. In that case, the employer knew the employee had attention deficit disorder (ADD). As the employee’s employment progressed, the employer began having serious concerns about her performance. The employer did implement some well-being strategies but the court held that in this instance they were not enough to discharge the employer’s legal obligations. In essence, the employer was required to put any performance management process on hold and firstly inquire into whether the employment concerns were a symptom of the employee’s mental health condition. The employer needed to consider whether the performance process itself was causing more harm (or had the potential to cause more harm) to the employee, particularly given the known mental health disorder.

Where to from here?

  • Be proactive, not reactive.
  • Ensure you have robust policies and practices in place.
  • Deal with performance and/or misconduct promptly. However, tread carefully if there are any known or suspected mental health concerns with your employees.


Contact one of our specialist Commercial Law Team members today for advice, or call 09 883 4420.

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