Disclosing your disability when job hunting

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Looking for a job usually brings with it a lot of questions, whether that’s about writing your CV, filling in application forms or preparing for an interview. If you’re someone who has a disability, you may find a few extra questions on your list, for example: ‘Should I tell a prospective employer about my disability?’‘What if they ask me about it?’ or ‘Will they accommodate my needs?’

Questions surrounding disability can be tricky to answer, largely depending on what you’re most comfortable with and the specific individual needs you have. Even so, both you and employers have specific rights, and knowing what these are can help you answer some of the practical questions that you may have about the recruitment process and everything that follows. Moreover, it enables you to assess whether an employer is being fair or not.

Most countries have laws in place to protect people with disability and to ensure they get equal chances on the job market. These laws can go by many names: There’s the Equality Act in the United Kingdom, the Disability Discrimination Act in Australia and the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States.

Knowing the specifics of the law in your country can help you plan your approach to the recruitment process, for example in terms of when and if to bring up your disability. The UK’s Equality Act doesn’t state that you have any legal obligation to make your disability known to an employer, leaving it up to you to decide whether you will tell them and when. If you do disclose your disability during the recruitment process, it is unlawful for the employer to use this information to discriminate against you.

Meanwhile employers can ask you at any point during the process about any disability or health condition you may have, but only for particular reasons, such as:

1. To find out if you can participate in an assessment
2. To decide if you’re able to complete tasks that are essential to the role you’re applying to
3. To monitor diversity
4. To know whether they need to make specific accommodations for you during the interview or assessment process

Again, you’re under no obligation to answer these questions if you don’t want to but do consider the impact this will have on your application too: for example, if you require any adjustments to be made during the process, it’s probably worth telling the employer about these to allow yourself to perform to the best of your abilities.

At the end of the day employers are simply looking to recruit the best people, and if that means making necessary accommodations most will be more than happy to do so. In fact, there are many companies who pride themselves on their inclusivity – check out companies that have signed up to the Disability Confident scheme if you’re job hunting in the UK! – and with a little research you can find out whether your preferred employer is one of them. In any case, remember that you’re in charge of opening the conversation, so take the time to reflect on what you feel most comfortable with and will work the best for you.

Source: HN Global