The term disclosure relates to your decision to tell an employer about your disability. This is an area of great consternation for graduate job seekers, who grapple with the questions of if, when and how disclosure should occur.
Ultimately it is an individual decision, depending on the circumstances, context, disability and the personal comfort zone of the job seeker. You are not legally obliged to disclose your disability to an employer unless it will affect your ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job, to work safely or ensure the safety of colleagues.
Inherent requirements are defined as ‘essential activities’ of the job. For example, a telephonist must be able to communicate by telephone, but it is not an ‘inherent requirement’ to hold the phone in the hand. You should investigate the requirements for the role that you are interested in and decide whether you will be able to meet them. It is not disability discrimination when a person cannot meet the inherent requirements of a job.
If you have the skills and abilities to do the work, you may feel that it shouldn’t matter whether you happen to have a disability. However, it is worth remembering that many potential employers have little or no experience with disability, and do not know you or your abilities. Because they can be unaware of the services and adjustments available to reduce the effect of disability in the workplace, initially they may be unsure how you would complete the job as well as another person. In this situation, it may be beneficial to disclose your disability at a time when you can inform the potential employer of the ways in which you might overcome any minor obstacles, and discuss their concerns.
If your disability is visible, disclosure is usually inevitable. Being up front about it can clear up any concerns or misconceptions your employer may have. It also allows you to inform them of ways you may overcome any hindrances.
Graduates whose disability is not immediately obvious have greater choice as to whether or not to disclose. If your disability will not affect job performance, you may decide not to disclose it at all. In particular, many people with mental illness are unwilling to disclose as they are concerned about being stigmatised and discriminated against.
In making the decision, both the advantages and disadvantages should be considered, as well as the timing. The most important thing is that when disclosure does occur, it is done in a positive and open manner with an emphasis on skills and abilities.
Why I Might Disclose My Disability to an Employer
- If you need to request reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process (such as interview arrangements).
- To talk about necessary workplace adjustments, such as modified equipment or flexible working arrangements that will enable you to do the job.
- To engender trust and an open relationship with your employer.
- So your employer already knows about your disability, in case there is a crisis related to your disability in the future. If you have not disclosed your disability it may be difficult to implement work-related adjustments quickly.
- So your employer doesn’t think you are performing poorly if your disability impacts on your job.
- To meet your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, if there is a chance your disability could reasonably be seen to cause a health and safety risk for other people in the workplace.
- Many organisations are committed to equal opportunity policies and have non-prejudicial recruitment and employment procedures in place.
- Some organisations welcome employees with disability.
- If you feel your disability is relevant to the position, and your experience may help you get the job. For example, if you are applying to work in the disability sector and also have the relevant qualifications.
Why I Might Choose Not to Disclose My Disability
- Your disability may have no affect on your ability to do the job.
- Concern that it may lead to discrimination, provoke unnecessary curiosity, insensitive questions and lead to you being treated differently in the workplace. In this case you may wish to consider whether this is the type of organisation you would want to work for in the first place.
- Concern employers may have preset ideas about disability and see you as a liability through time off or what they perceive will be costly workplace adjustments.
- You may feel uncomfortable discussing your disability with a stranger.