People with disabilities often face the difficult decision as to whether or not they should disclose and many are unsure whether they are actually required to. It is important to note you are under no legal obligation to do so and whether or not you disclose is entirely your decision.
The exception to this is where there may be health and safety implications, for example, with a condition such as epilepsy. Should you require reasonable adjustments at any stage of the recruitment process or during your day to day work, it may be worth considering disclosure.
Many job applications now have an accompanying equal opportunities form that asks a range of questions about your background, one of which may concern whether or not you have a disability. The information on these forms is confidential and will not be shared with interviewers unless you have specifically requested that you do need it shared in order to have appropriate adjustments made. You do not have to disclose on this form if you do not wish to. Many people opt not to answer this question regardless of whether or not they have a disability.
The one thing you must not do, however, is lie. If you disclose at a later date an employer, whilst perhaps not in any way negative about disability, may have an issue with the fact you have been untruthful on application. It is worth noting that employers tend to use these forms simply to ensure they are receiving applications from a diverse range of candidates and that their processes are not closed to any particular type of candidate.
Pros and cons
It is helpful to think about the pros and cons of disclosure in order to come to an informed decision as to whether you should disclose at all and, if so, at what stage. (eg application, interviews, starting a job or while working in a job).
Once you have disclosed you are covered by the Equality Act 2010 which deems it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any employee who declares a disability. You are covered from the point of disclosure be it on an application form or at any point throughout the recruitment process or during your working life. An employer is legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments for disabled applicants/employees and cannot treat an individual less favourably because they have a disability.
People may be concerned that if they disclose they may be viewed less favourably by employers. This is a valid concern, however many employers are recognising the importance of diversity in the workplace; recognising they will get a broader range of skills from a wider pool of talent and also recognising they need to reflect the needs of their diverse customer base. It is always worth looking for evidence of an employer’s engagement with diversity, and in particular disability, when considering whether or not to disclose to an employer.
When to disclose
If you do choose to disclose then bear in mind that there is no one 'right' stage at which to do so. Disclosure can take place at any point in the recruitment process or during working life so some stages at which it may be appropriate to disclose are:
- At initial application
- Upon being invited to take tests
- Upon being invited to interview/assessment centre
- At interview/assessment centre (although bear in mind the interviewers may not be the right people to disclose to)
- Upon receipt/acceptance of job offer
- Before starting the job
- Once in role
If you choose to disclose but are unsure when to do so it is worth considering disclosing at the point at which you need adjustments made. If, for example, your CV reflects your disability (eg gaps on your CV, lower marks than expected), then it is worth considering disclosure at application as without context the recruiters will not know you have mitigating circumstances that have contributed to this.
If there is nothing evident on your CV but you will need adjustments at interview you may wish to disclose once offered an interview.
If you do not need adjustments throughout the recruitment process you may wish to wait and disclose once you have received a job offer. It is up to you who you wish to disclose to (HR/Diversity of general recruiter/line manager) and this information should remain confidential; and only shared with people you have authorised
If you have disclosed your disability, the employer is likely to be interested in how your condition may affect you in the workplace and your ability to perform the requirements of your role. See our applications and interviews page for advice on talking about a disability with an employer in an interview.