1. Do I have to disclose my disability to potential employers or interviewers?
In a simple word ‘no’. You are under no obligation to disclose anything about your disability to anybody. You may, however, choose to disclose as you will then be protected by the Equality Act 2010 and can also discuss any reasonable adjustments or support you may need from the moment you disclose.
If you do not disclose a disability and your performance is affected by your disability and lack of adjustments, leading to rejection at recruitment stage or dismissal from a job at a later date, you will not be retrospectively covered by the EA.
If you have epilepsy it is important to note the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) requires that both employers and employees declare factors which might prejudice the safety of employees and epilepsy is regarded as a relevant factor. A failure to declare can result in instant dismissal which would not be considered unfair if brought before an industrial tribunal. Find out more on our disclosure page.
2. I have a disability but don’t feel I need adjustments and don’t want to tell anyone. Should I mark ‘no’ next to the disability question on the application form or do I have to say ‘yes’?
Neither. You do not have to answer this question at all. Non-response is not an indication that you have a disability. Many applicants will leave this blank regardless of whether they have a disability or not as they do not wish to answer the question.
If, however, you have ticked no and then need adjustments at a later date employers may not have an issue with your disability but they may certainly consider that you have lied to them and question your integrity. If unsure, leave blank. There are occasions, however, where ticking yes can be to your advantage.
For information on how to identify the purpose behind the question and the benefits of disclosure see our disclosure page.
3. If I do choose to disclose during the application or recruitment process when should I do it and how?
If you choose to disclose, the most appropriate time can be considered to be at the first stage at which you will need reasonable adjustments. You can, of course, choose to disclose at the start of the process, for example, on an application form but this is your choice and disclosure can wait until you need adjustments. The stages of the recruitment process and opportunities for disclosure can be discussed in more detail in a one-to-one meeting at LSE Careers.
It is always important to disclose in a positive manner focusing on your abilities not your disability. Demonstrate how having a disability has developed your skills and discuss the growing importance of diversity in the workplace.
4. I was ill (due to my disability) during my second year and have bad exam results/ a gap on my CV. Will employers reject my application because of this?
Without explanation an employer may well see this as an indication of your level of ability. If you have mitigating circumstances a simple explanation may well clarify any discrepancies in performance for an employer and they will be happy to focus on your abilities and skills demonstrated in other areas of your CV. A brief but precise and positive explanation should be put in a cover letter/email accompanying your CV or application form.
5. My university has always provided me with a sign language interpreter or speech-to-text reporter but I know they are really expensive and I can’t afford to pay for one for an interview. What can I do?
Access to Work, (a government scheme which provides funds for reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities in paid employment), will pay for interpreter support at an interview. This is, in fact, the only support they will pay for at an interview.
It is worth noting that ATW will also pay for any adjustments that are needed for a paid internship/placement scheme as well as for permanent employment.
See our information about Access to Work for further information.
6. Can I use examples to do with my disability to demonstrate skills and competencies on an application form?
Of course you can. If you have a good example that demonstrates key competencies employers are looking for then use it! Do not, however, answer all (or a lot) of the questions with examples from your disability experience. Employers wish to see well rounded individuals with examples from various aspects of their life and experiences.
Ensure that you are answering the question and that your example describes challenges that require the skills they are asking about and not just what you want them to know.
7. What are reasonable adjustments?
Reasonable adjustments are adjustments to usual conditions in order to make premises, jobs, education and services accessible to people with disabilities.
These may include physical adjustments such as change to the physical structure of a building or furniture i.e. desk height, induction loops, ramp access, lifts, fire beacons, accessible toilets and refreshment facilities, specialist equipment, to name but a few, along with other adjustments to working arrangements such as provision of alternative formats to materials, interpreter support, flexible hours and re-allocation of work.
Access to Work will cover a percentage of costs for adjustments that do incur costs and an employer is required by the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments when employing someone with a disability. Find out more on our reasonable adjustments page.
8. I need extra time to complete written tasks but am worried about asking for it at an assessment centre. Will it make me look weaker than other candidates or like I’m getting special treatment to make the tasks easier?
Absolutely not. These adjustments are there to allow you compete on a level playing field- not to give you an unfair advantage. Recruitment processes are stressful enough without added difficulties. Other applicants may not have the same issues to contend with (or they may, you won’t know. They may well have asked for adjustments too!).
If you do not ask for necessary adjustments and under perform as a result you are unlikely to get the job as employers will see your performance as an indication of your ability and you will fare poorly in competition with others. Employers ask if you need adjustments to give you every opportunity to show them your ability. Don’t be frightened to ask.
9. If I do disclose my disability does that mean if I get the job everyone will know and see me as different?
Disclosure of disability is confidential information. The only people who should know about this are those you choose to tell. It may be that you tell HR or recruiters or your line manager, and ask for it to go no further. Your colleagues should not be told unless you wish to tell them.
If you have a visible disability or have obvious reasonable adjustments colleagues may realise but how much or how little you choose to discuss is up to you. In these cases it may be worth considering openness. However, once adjustment information has been shared, you should then get on with the job and be viewed as a colleague like any other, judged on your ability not your disability.
10. How can I tell if an employer is disability friendly when I make applications?
Most employer literature now has equal opportunity statements but there are ways and means of identifying those who actively welcome applications from people with disabilities. Look at website disability information and accessibility, have employers achieved the ‘Two ticks’ symbol? This symbol has been achieved through proven commitment to disability and diversity initiatives, one of which is guarantee of an initial interview for anyone with a disability who meets the basic criteria for an advertised role (relating to the benefits of disclosure mentioned in Q2). Do they have schemes for students with disabilities, or employees with disabilities within the organisation already? There are a number of ways of identifying positive employers and many organisations are starting to realise the benefits of diversity in their workforce and are working towards creating diverse environments.
See our page on choosing an employer for further advice and information.
For further information on any of the issues mentioned above, or for any disability or employment related queries or support please call in, or make an appointment, to see Viki Chinn at LSE Careers.