Release type: Media Release


Mental health linked to economic productivity in small business policy


Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education
Senator for Western Australia

The Liberal National Government today announced specific funding for mental health assistance for small business. 

Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash said the package was part of the Government’s strong focus on small business as a key economic driver, and a recognition that mental health is linked to the productivity of the small business sector.

“I have met with hundreds of small businesses across Australia over the last few months and mental health has been a key issue raised with me, in particular by sole traders.

“Mental health issues in small business is intrinsically linked to our nation’s economic productivity, with the estimated cost to the Australian economy each year in lost productivity due to mental health issues being $12.8 billion."

An analysis by PwC found that Australian small businesses have a $14.50 return on investment for each $1 spent on mental health relating to the workplace.

The Liberal National Government has also tasked the Productivity Commission to conduct an inquiry into the effect of supporting mental health on economic and social participation, productivity and the Australian economy.

“One size does not fit all. We need to ensure that the support mechanisms that we have in place cater to small and family businesses of all sizes,” Minister Cash said.

The small business mental health package includes:

  • $3.1 million to expand the trial of leading mental health organisation Everymind’s ‘Ahead for Business’ program, targeted at supporting small and family business - particularly sole proprietors;
  • $500,000 as initial support for a nationwide government campaign to promote existing mental health resources for small business; and
  • An inaugural small business mental health roundtable with key stakeholders across the small business and mental health sectors to inform this policy area, particularly for regional and rural Australia.

Minister Cash said a targeted approach to small business and mental health was critical. Current workplace mental health resources are not always suitable for small business owners, as they focus on organisations that have a dedicated Human Resources and Work Health and Safety function.

“There are 3.3 million small and medium businesses in Australia, employing around 7 million Australians. We want to be sure we have the right resources in place to take care of the mental health of the Australians that are out there, building a business, growing the economy and employing other Australians," Minister Cash said.

Director of Everymind Jaelea Skehan said a survey of more than 440 small business owners conducted by their Institute showed they had higher levels of symptoms of depression and anxiety than the national average. Stress levels were high too with 57.6 per cent falling outside the “normal” range.

“It is great to see the mental health and wellbeing needs of small business owners and sole traders being recognised by governments,” Ms Skehan said.    

“We have been really fortunate to partner with the icare foundation and small business in NSW to design the ‘Ahead for Business’ digital platform and community engagement strategies. This national investment enables us to expand the trial of the full program in rural areas and areas outside of NSW. 

“Small businesses are vital to our economy and our communities – so programs that look to support their wellbeing are likely to have benefits for them, their business, their families and the communities where they live and work.”

The Liberal National Government’s Small Business Mental Health Roundtable will be held Wednesday, December 12 and will include representation from the sector including National Mental Health Commission, COSBOA, the National Farmers Federation, ASBEFO and more.