job application

A healthy approach to discussing illness and disability during a job application

People with disabilities and long-term health conditions struggle to find the right time to mention their situation when applying for new jobs with potential employers. According to research by Astriid, only 35% of people with a disability or a long-term illness raise the issue during the job application process while 34% wait until an interview to broach the subject.

“Discussing health conditions early in the recruitment process can avoid friction with a future employer, but it does mean more doors will get slammed in your face,” said Victoria Clutton, who has multiple debilitating health issues and is on the management committee for Chronic Illness Inclusion.

Waiting to build a rapport with a new employer during a first or second interview can make it easier to discuss health conditions and any reasonable adjustments that might need to be made. “Getting the timing and tone right is important. People shouldn’t apologise about their illness or disability – it’s better to use matter-of-fact language,” commented Camilla Faith, HR Director for Grosvenor Estate, an international property business. “Discussing a health condition shows confidence, which is a very attractive quality in a candidate.”

Employers quiz candidates on health issues during job interviews

Government policy states that employers can only ask about a candidate’s health or disability during recruitment ‘if there are necessary requirements of the job that cannot be met with reasonable adjustments. However, 37% of people say they were questioned about their health during the recruitment process.

“It can be difficult to feel confident if you’ve experienced multiple rejections. Practice presenting your story in a positive way,” added Camilla. And there are a lot of positives to shout about. People with disabilities and long-term illnesses bring new perspectives to the workplace and can have a positive impact on an organisation’s productivity and profitability.

“I’ve gained a lot of valuable skills through learning to cope with my illness,” commented Katie Sawyer, who has several chronic illnesses. “I am excellent at managing my time and prioritising tasks. It’s important to champion your unique capabilities during the recruitment process.”

Charity helps to create a fairer job application process

Even though a significant number of candidates with a chronic illness have found ways to demonstrate their employability, some people still decide not to disclose their health status during the job application process for fear of discrimination. “Until I found Astriid, companies used to run a mile when I mentioned my situation,” explained Victoria.

Astriid helps to match people with long-term illnesses with organisations looking for talent and willing to offer flexible hours and working conditions. “When you become an Astriid candidate, the door is already open with a potential new employer,” commented Camilla. “The focus is on your capabilities, not your disabilities.”

As well as bringing valuable skills to the workplace, people with health conditions are also very resilient and loyal. And that loyalty can rub off on their colleagues: according to research company Gartner, organisations that actively employ people with disabilities experience 89% higher retention rates.

“Employees with disabilities and chronic illnesses are very dedicated and determined. They achieve great performance scores; organisations should be empowering, not excluding them from the workplace,” said Victoria.


Helen Guyatt

This article was written by Helen Guyatt, a journalist, and storyteller. She has been writing about business and IT trends for more than 20 years for a range of publications and corporate clients. Helen often trades her keyboard for a baking bowl and enjoys making (and eating) copious amounts of cake. She is passionate about highlighting social and sustainability issues to help make the world a better place to live in.