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Disclosing a Hidden Disability or Illness to a Prospective Employer

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For people living with a hidden disability or chronic illness such as long covid, multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy or recovering from or undergoing treatment for cancer, navigating the complexities of the recruitment process comes with additional considerations.

Oftentimes, those considerations include; if, when and how to disclose a health condition to a potential employer and what impact it might have on the outcome of an interview.

From a legal perspective, under the 2010 Equality Act, employers are not allowed to discriminate against people who disclose this information. However, unconscious bias can creep into the interview process so care is needed. While honesty is always advised during the recruitment process, when it comes to disclosing a disability or chronic illness, the extent of disclosure and timing is important or you can open yourself up to discrimination, even if it is unconscious on the side of the hiring manager.

What to say on your CV and in an interview

During an interview, candidates should be mindful of providing truthful responses without divulging more than they wish to.

If your illness resulted in gaps in your employment history, you need to be prepared to address questions about this. You can acknowledge the gaps by explaining that during those periods, you were dealing with personal or health-related matters that required your attention and focus. Avoid providing unnecessary details about your illness or personal circumstances unless you feel comfortable doing so, and instead, steer the conversation towards highlighting your skills, experiences, and qualifications relevant to the role.

While privacy is important, divulging the full extent of your illness or disability, particularly if it is a hidden illness or disability can be beneficial in the long run, and especially if you are still undergoing treatment or if you need time off or extra supports in place.

Candidates should consider their own well-being and the impact of their illness or disability on job performance, and vice versa, when deciding what to disclose. While it's not necessary to disclose health issues during the initial application or during the interview, open communication is crucial once an offer of employment is made.

Once an offer of employment is accepted, a candidate is required to inform their employer of any health condition that may affect their ability to perform the job effectively, this allows the employer to make workplace adjustments.

Workplace adjustments can include flexibility on start or finishing times, phasing a return to work, allowing remote work home or providing support with the workload through a mentoring scheme.

It’s also worth noting that employers are allowed to offer different pay rates to workers with a disability or illness, if they cannot do the same amount of work within the same time as a co-worker without a disability or illness.

Be informed and seek advice as needed:

Understanding a company's policies regarding health disclosures is also crucial. Once hired, employees should familiarise themselves with the employer's policies on health disclosures and accommodations once they receive their employee booklet. Some companies may have specific protocols in place to support employees dealing with long-term illnesses.

If there is any confusion with regards to the company’s policies, employees should seek support from healthcare professionals and legal advisors to ensure they make informed decisions.

In the end, it's about finding the balance between honesty, self-care, and professional discretion. By approaching the situation with transparency and awareness of one's rights and responsibilities, candidates can navigate the job application process with confidence, even in the face of challenging health circumstances.Top of Form