Should I tell my boss about my mental health issue?

Here are some important things to consider when weighing up your decision.

Written by Medibank

Whether or not to tell your boss you have a mental health issue like depression or anxiety is a personal question. Considering 1 in 5 of us have experienced a mental health issue in the last 12 months, and almost half of us will experience a mental health problem at some time in our life, it shouldn’t be a big deal; but it can feel like one.

2 men sitting in front of a laptop talking

In many situations telling your employer may mean you’re better supported to do your job, and it may give confidence to others who are struggling with something similar. That’s not to say you might not be worried about potential discrimination or missing out on a promotion.

Every workplace is different and offers a different level of support.  Here are some important things to consider when weighing up your decision. 

What you do (and don’t) need to tell work

Like any other health problem, if your mental health issue does not affect your ability to do your job, you are not legally obliged to tell your employer about it. The same rule applies if you’re going through an interview process.

But keep in mind your workplace health and safety obligations. If your issue is putting you or others at risk, you need to tell someone. For example, if you’re taking certain medications and operating heavy machinery.

If your issue is affecting the standard of your work, it may be a good idea to tell your employer so they can support you. Remember the law is there to protect people from discrimination when they have a health problem or disability.

What work can ask and how they can help

If you tell your employer about your mental health issue, you’re protected by anti-discrimination laws which mean your workplace must make reasonable changes to support you to do your job. They also have a legal responsibility to maintain your privacy, and can only use the information for the reasons you gave it to them for.

Employers can ask certain questions about your mental health issue if it is legitimate, necessary and desirable. An example is if they need to make any adjustments to the workplace to support you.

Weighing up the pros and cons

There can be some benefits to sharing your mental health problem with your employer, or colleagues, even though you’re not legally obliged to do so. Drawing up a list of pros and cons can help you decide. Some examples include:


  • Telling your boss could allow you to change your schedule or workload to a more sustainable level, helping you manage your issue better from time-to-time or on an ongoing basis.
  • Being upfront could discourage gossip and encourage more people to seek out help for their own problems.
  • If your work performance has been suffering, it may help to contextualise things.


  • You worry it will change your boss’s and colleagues’ perception or opinion of you.
  • You feel your issue could become a scapegoat for poor performance or a subject of gossip, even if it’s under control.
  • You feel you don’t require any extra support from your workplace, so why take the risk?

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance has a pros and cons tool you can use on their website: Heads Up.

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How to tell your employer

If you decide to tell your employer, you might be wondering about the best way to go about it. Here are some handy tips.

Setting up the initial meeting

This is an extremely personal decision, so do what works for you. If you’d prefer a sit-down, formal meeting, go for it, but for others a walk around the block might be better.

Decide how you’re going to talk about your issue

You can describe your exact diagnosis such as depression or anxiety or you could be a little more vague. The amount of detail you share is completely up to you.

Decide on your reason for telling them

For example, you might be looking for more flexible working hours or some extended time off. This is also a good time to mention how your mental health problem may or may not be affecting your performance.

Together with your manager and workplace, you can put together a support plan. Your workplace can’t tell anyone about your mental health issue without your OK. They can only use the information for the purpose you gave it to them, such as to adjust your work schedule or responsibilities.

Mental health awareness has come a long way from where it was even a decade ago. Most professional workplaces have a policy that includes mental health as part of sick days, and other policies to help you manage your issue. At the end of the day it’s your health, your decision, and you should always do what’s best for you.

24/7 Mental Health Phone Support

Members with Hospital cover can talk with a mental health professional over the phone in relation to any mental health or emotional concern, 24 hours a day 7 days a week on 1800 644 325~.

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Looking for something else?

Visit our Better Minds hub to find more tools and services.

Things you need to know

~ OSHC members should call the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283.

While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).