Sharing information about your disability or health condition with an employer
Should I tell an employer about my disability or health condition?
Choosing to share this information is a personal decision; there is no legal obligation to inform an employer about your disability at any stage of the application and selection process. Under the Equality Act 2010 it is, in most situations, illegal for employers to ask about health and disability issues when recruiting. However, there are some good reasons for telling a potential employer about a disability and you might want to consider the following before you decide:
- Will asking for adjustments allow you to perform to the best of your ability in the recruitment process?
- You may be able to describe strengths you will bring to the workplace because of your disability (e.g. commitment, attention to detail, empathy for others).
- There may be ways in which you can highlight positive achievements in spite of the additional challenges you have faced.
- Sharing this information can help to account for gaps in education or limited work experience.
- If you decide not to tell an employer, they cannot be held liable under the Equality Act 2010 for failing to make adjustments.
- If you are applying for a role with an employer who is part of the Disability Confident scheme, there should be a focus on ability rather than disability.
- Explaining what adjustments would help you succeed in the recruitment process will allow the employer to put these in place (e.g. arrangements can be made for extra time for psychometric tests if you have dyslexia).
- If you have mobility issues and part of a selection process involves attending an in-person interview or assessment centre, informing the employer should ensure that you do not have any challenges with accessibility on the day.
- Are there likely to be any health and safety implications if you do not share information about your disability? In this case, you could put yourself or colleagues at risk if you do not consider sharing relevant information about your disability or health condition.
- In order to be eligible for funding through the Government’s ‘Access to Work’ scheme to cover extra costs at work (e.g. specialist equipment or adaptations), you will need to inform the employer.
Important note:Employers often use equal opportunities monitoring forms, which ask for details about your gender, ethnicity and disability. This is for monitoring purposes only and this information is detached before the application reaches those involved with the recruitment process. This means that if you have indicated that you have a disability on one of these forms, the recruiter will not have been informed and will not be aware of this.
When should I share information about my disability or health condition?
When to disclose a disability or health condition to an employer is a common question for many students and graduates. Ultimately, this decision is up to you and when you decide to inform an employer depends on what you feel comfortable with and also what you might need during the recruitment process to help you perform to the best of your ability. Below, the main opportunities for sharing this information are briefly outlined:
At the application stage
There is likely to be space towards the end of an application form for you to share information about your disability or health condition. If the application process involves completion of a covering letter, this can also be a place to share relevant information. It is helpful if you can outline what adjustments you would find helpful at subsequent stages of the recruitment process (e.g. psychometric testing or online interviews) as this will provide the recruiter with the information they need to put these in place.
When invited to interview/assessment centre
If you think that adjustments would help you to perform at your best when attending an in-person interview or assessment centre, it is best to let the employer know as soon as you can so these adjustments can be made (e.g., additional time for written exercise or specific access to the building).
At the interview
You may prefer to wait until you are at the interview to discuss your disability face to face, in particular if the application process did not allow you the time or space to ensure employers can get an accurate understanding of your disability or condition. However, be prepared that this may come as a surprise to the employer, so in general, this is not considered to be the best time, in most cases.
When a job offer has been made
You can also wait until you have been offered the job to request adjustments because of your disability or health condition (e.g. you may require adaptive technology or regular rest breaks). You may be eligible for the Government’s Access to Work scheme which can provide funding for your new employer to put adjustments in place.
How should I share information about my disability or health condition?
If you have decided to share information about your disability or health condition with an employer, the next aspect to consider is how to do this.
A key element of the application process is to demonstrate to the employer that you are the best candidate for the job, so seek to highlight your strengths and avoid making the whole application about your disability or health condition. You only need to discuss aspects of your disability that are relevant to the job, e.g. if you need to take more frequent breaks or require physical adjustments to your workspace, and there is no need to provide full medical details.
Don’t assume that employers will have a negative attitude towards candidates with a disability or long-term health condition, as the skills you have developed as a result of your experiences may well give you the edge over other applicants. These could include skills like flexibility, problem-solving, time management and determination to achieve your goals. Emphasise these positives when sharing information about your disability or health condition and try to link them clearly to your suitability for the particular job/sector (see examples below), but avoid focusing the whole interview or application on your disability.
Some employers may have limited experience of interviewing and employing candidates with a disability or may be unfamiliar with your specific condition, so they might look to you to explain any workplace implications and required adjustments. If you are unsure yourself how your disability might affect you in the workplace, seek advice from a relevant support organisation (a list of relevant organisations is included later in this guide).
Examples of how to share information about your disability or health condition in applications and at interview
My enthusiasm and determination is highlighted by my voluntary work and involvement in a number of fundraising activities. As an active member of the National Diabetic Association, I have not only helped to increase awareness of the condition but also contributed to events which raised in excess of £25,000 during the last three years. Having diabetes and achieving a First Class degree as well as working and volunteering for up to 30 hours each week alongside my studies has developed my flexibility, time management and ability to meet targets, which I appreciate are key skills for your graduate training scheme.
As a wheelchair user, I have faced many challenges both in the UK and abroad, from accessing public transport and facilities during my Erasmus study placement in Slovenia to accessing extracurricular activities. This has not only greatly developed my creative problem-solving skills and initiative, but also strengthened my communication and interpersonal skills with people from a range of backgrounds. I am aware that these are essential qualities to work in events organisation and management, and I am confident that I can transfer my competence in these areas effectively to working as a Graduate Event Organiser at Best Events Ltd. My own experience as a wheelchair user and my recent internship at the Echo Arena working alongside a partially-sighted and hearing-impaired student will also enable me to produce events that are fully accessible, which I understand is amongst one of your key commitments to clients at Best Events Ltd.
(To explain gaps in your education history due to a medical condition):
In my final year of sixth form, I was diagnosed with ___ which required me to undergo extensive treatment at the time. As a result, I missed a significant amount of lessons in the sixth months leading up to my A-Levels and was therefore unable to complete my exams as scheduled. However, I was determined to achieve the best possible results in my A-Levels to apply to study Law at university, so I enrolled in my local community college the following year and continued my studies independently alongside various hospital stays and using savings from previous part-time work to pay for lessons with a private tutor. This enabled me to sit my A-Levels, achieving marks of ABB, which even exceeded my previously predicted marks of BBC. This illustrates that I have the determination and resilience required for a successful career in the legal sector. The excellent marks I have achieved throughout my first year at university (68% on average), my involvement in the LJMU Law Society and my volunteering position as a mentor with the local
Youth Offending Team clearly demonstrate that I have developed effective strategies to manage my condition. Apart from taking the occasional day’s leave for my regular check-ups, I require no adjustments in the workplace.