When and how to discuss the subject of a long-term health condition with your employer

Broaching the subject of health with your potential employer can be a difficult and nerve-wracking line to navigate. While acknowledging you may need more support or adjustments so that you can perform your role to the best of your ability, you also do not want to seem incapable. While discussing what is usually personal information, you still want to keep your work and home life separate. Yet, while your long-term health condition in no way determines who you are, it can restrict you in certain areas to a greater or lesser degree and it is important to be realistic about your needs.

When applying for any new role there are certain points you wish to discuss. Your skills, qualities, work ethic, what you can bring to the organisation etc. These points should be the sole focus of an interview with a potential employer. You are not your disability; you are your ability.

I tend to see health conditions (and I speak from the perspective of someone with a chronic illness) as being a separate entity, not something that defines you as a person, but something that you must consider. An illness comes with its own agenda and ways of adapting. As such it can impact your private, social, and work life.  When applying for a role, just like you may have to explain your means of transport or your living location in terms of the job position, it is wise to discuss your long-term health condition. Explaining how you will manage this around your work commitments and what support or adaptations you will require, will mean that your needs are met, and your employer will know how best to accommodate you.

It is important to be realistic in terms of your needs but also keep in mind that adjustments can be made so your job is as easy for you as it is for an able-bodied individual. You must keep some level of realism in this (for example if you are someone who finds their condition worsens in the cold, it is not wise to work outdoors) but under the Equality Act (2010) reasonable adjustments should be made if you’re placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to an able-bodied individual.

The best time to broach this subject is at the very beginning during the interview. By explaining your needs, but also highlighting why you still feel you can complete the role to the highest standards, you are being transparent and honest. To gauge if a company has good disability support during the recruitment process, look for the “Disability Confident Employer” Tick.  Many companies now have monitoring questions on their application, where you have an option to disclose your condition. The answers to these cannot be used to discriminate against you and are often used as a form of monitoring equality and diversity to make sure the company is doing all it can to remain fair and employ people regardless of faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and ability.

If you feel an employer is not open and accommodating to your needs at the interview, ask yourself if you really wish to give your skills and abilities to this employer?

 

Molly Latham

Article by Molly Latham. Molly loves writing and likes to use words as a way of helping others. Having a chronic illness and disability means she has a unique insight, that she feels can be used to help others understand and support each other. In her spare time, she loves baking, reading and making new friends. She also loves going on walks in the countryside with her boyfriend and dog.

 

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