If you have a disability, you may find it tricky to work out when exactly to tell your employer about it, or, even if you are legally obligated to let them know. In truth, disclosing a disability is completely up to the individual. People with a disability are not legally obligated to let a potential or an existing employer know. However, it is wise to weigh up your options and be prepared to talk about your disability with confidence.

Talking about your disability during a job hunt

Sometimes, talking about your disability during a job hunt can be challenging. Employers are meant to hire people based on their abilities and not discriminate, however discrimination still can still unfortunately occur. Even returning to work after you have been diagnosed with a disability is tough. It’s a choice between telling your employers and receiving adequate help, or telling your employers and finding that your working relationship changes.

While you can never quite predict someone else’s actions (no matter what the law states), it is important to do what feels right for you. If you are returning to work with a disability (since you can’t be fired simply for having a disability), it might be best to discuss with your employers what is going on and let them know if you need additional help.

However, young starters with a disability may find that going through the interview process and talking about their disability when it feels right to them is the best way to go. You don’t want to appear as deceiving to a potential employer, however, if your disability is not obvious and does not hinder your ability to perform the job, tell your employer about your disability when you think it’s the right time. It’s worth remembering though that being open and honest with your employer helps to create a sense of trust, as well as a positive working relationship.

Knowing your rights

When applying for a job it is important to know what your rights are in relation to disclosing a disability and your entitlement to receive work.

It is against the law for employers to discriminate against you because of your disability by:

  • Refusing to offer you employment
  • Dismissing you or refusing to allow you to work
  • Refusing to offer promotions
  • Or treating you unfavourably in any other way.

Disabilities don’t need to be disclosed on pre-employment forms as it’s against the law for employers to discriminate against a job applicant because of a disability. However, if a pre-employment form asks for information about injury or illness, an applicant is well within their legal rights to write ‘non-applicable’ if their disability will not have an impact on work performance.

It is important to know that in certain situations an employer can lawfully discriminate. For example, an employer can discriminate against an employee because of their disability if the disability prohibits the person from performing essential tasks and it causes unjustifiable hardship on the business.

How to talk about your disability during different stages of employment

The interview phase
In a job interview, it is commonplace for the interviewer to ask the applicant to describe themselves. For some, this may be an opportunity to naturally bring up a disability. When done in the job interview phase, bringing up a disability can show the employer that the applicant is honest, open and can be trusted. It also provides the interviewer with an opportunity to meet with the candidate and get to know them before making any judgements based on the presence of a disability.

Disability can also come up in an interview if the interviewer asks the applicant questions about performing tasks that the person’s disability has not let them do previously. Instead of telling the interviewer that you have no examples, disclosing a disability and explaining why you’ve never done those things, and also, how you would approach those things now, can be a good way to show a potential employer that your disability does not define you or your abilities.

Selection phase
When you make it through to the second interview, interviewers want to know more about you as a person and dig deeper into why you would be a good fit for their company. At the end of the day, businesses want to hire real people with real experiences. By choosing to talk about a disability in this phase of the job hunt process, applicants are giving interviewers a real life example of overcoming adversity and thriving, and they are the type of people that organisation’s want to hire.

The selection phase can also be another time to talk about your disability as the interviewer will conduct reference checks. Unless references have been informed otherwise, they may speak to a person’s disability and the strengths of that disability in a working environment. Instead of having to explain to an employer why you didn’t tell them about your disability, get on the front foot. Before the reference checks, inform the interviewer of your disability, but also state that you have a number of references that can attest to the fact that your disability does not diminish your ability to work at that particular organisation.

Offer and induction phase
Some disabilities may require workplaces to make modifications before the person is able to work effectively. That is why during the offer and induction phase, telling your employer about modifications or special privileges on account of a disability is a good idea. You’re not putting the employer on the spot and expecting the changes while you’re already working. Instead, you’re giving them notice that some things may need changing. For example, a new employee with cerebral palsy may talk about their disability now to let their employer know that they may need an office space that can be accessed without having to use the stairs.

During the induction phase, an individual can also talk about their disability if they feel that they may need extra or modified training than is normally given to new hires. By stating that you need, for example, provided notes instead of writing your own or a different training method, you are still showing the company that you are committed to doing the learning in order to perform the job correctly.

Job probation phase
If once you start completing the job you realise that there may be situations during the working day where activities will cause a disability to recur, or get worse. By not disclosing your disability to employers, there is the chance that you can miss out on workers compensation if something does happen. With this in mind, during job training it is best to talk about your disability for the sake of yourself and the business.

When you are on the job something may occur that is out of the ordinary for most, however, for someone with a disability, you will not be able to cope with it. For example, someone with temperature sensitivities due to multiple sclerosis could not work in an environment where the air conditioning is broken and stuck on heat. Instead of taking days off work, the person could inform their boss of the disability, but they could also complete their work from home in an environment where they can control the temperature.

Disclosing your disability isn’t admitting a weakness, it is informing someone of the way that you personally require tasks to be performed. That is why talking about it during any phase of the job hunt should be done with confidence.

Choosing the right support for your employment journey

Deciding when to disclose a disability and how to do it with confidence can be hard for people returning to work and for those looking for their first employment opportunity. Ability Options Recruitment Specialists can help you showcase your strengths and find employment that suits your skills. Contact us today!

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