Addressing anxiety disorders in labour hire

It’s seen to be uncomfortable to talk about Australia’s anxiety disorder epidemic, especially for those in the construction and labour hire industries. However, anxiety is the most common mental health condition in our nation, with over 12 million of us experiencing it in any 12-month period.

Several factors can lead to the development of anxiety disorders. These include a family history of mental health conditions and difficult life events – such as relationship problems, emotional trauma and work stress.

Oftentimes, those in construction and labour hire find it difficult to talk about mental health issues. These sectors are the most male-dominated in Australia, with over 85% of employees being men.

Labour hire companies and employers must be able to:

  • recognise the signs of anxiety and depression,
  • develop a culture that encourages discussion about mental health, and
  • provide support to ensure that candidates and employees can succeed.

Recognising an anxiety disorder in labour hire

It’s a shocking statistic that over 20% of the 625,000 Australians employed in the construction industry have had mental health conditions. Construction workers are also twice as likely to attempt suicide than the average person.

As one of the largest employment sectors in the country, we must do better to understand the issues facing our candidates and employees – so that we can offer more impactful support. The first step is being able to identify when someone may be struggling with an anxiety disorder.

MACFORCE Australia’s HR Manager, Seb Kendrew, points out that it’s much harder to notice if you don’t have a strong relationship with a candidate or employee. “Knowing their situation, personality and communication style makes it that much easier to pick up changes in behaviour”, he says.

While everyone reacts differently to stress or anxiety, some common signs may be:

  • missing work shifts or coming in late;
  • declining promotions or social events;
  • isolating from the team or not connecting with others;
  • agitation, irritability or a shaking voice;
  • poor productivity or lack of engagement with work; and
  • physical complaints without another explanation – such as difficulty sleeping.

Support and treatment for anxiety disorders

Poor mental health and anxiety in labour hire don’t just affect employees and candidates. They cost businesses nearly $11 billion each year. However, social stigma and workplace culture can prevent employees from discussing their mental health and seeing real change.

A ‘mentally healthy’ onsite culture that’s a win-win for both labour hire and businesses involves:

Seb also highlights the importance of personal plans and referrals to GPs. “Reminding a candidate or employee to speak to their doctor is crucial. They can recommend specialised and subsidised services that make a world of difference.”

MACFORCE’s anxiety disorder support

MACFORCE has found that focusing on community is the best way to address anxiety, stress and depression for its candidates. The team is always available to speak with directly on 1300 06 06 41, and frequent text message ‘check-ins’ keep communication lines open.

“We make sure that we’re always engaging with the employees we’ve placed into the workforce,” Seb says. “It allows us to keep the conversation going, while also communicating our support service offering.”

Those support services include a network of mental health professionals, financial advisors, drug and alcohol specialists and more – to help employees face the circumstances causing their anxieties.

“Our advice is this: ‘You don’t need to know what’s wrong. You just need to know that something is different’. Put your hand up if something doesn’t feel right.”


MACFORCE Australia is a recruitment company with heart that wants to change the way people are employed in Australia. That includes offering guidance on and support for issues like anxiety disorders in labour hire. MACFORCE supports candidates to find suitable work placements – while supporting its clients to find suitable employees.

Looking for a career with a business that values your mental health? Connect with us at

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