A young Involvement Network member shares their experience of disclosing information about long term conditions to potential employers.
In July 2017, I attended the Young Patient Advocate summer training, in Vienna, hosted by the European Patient Forum. Not only was it refreshing to be surrounded by so many other like-minded young patient advocates, but it re-ignited my desire to improve the employment opportunities and experiences for individuals with health issues.
Whether you’re dipping your toes in the water after some time away from work or considering a career move, an application form will likely be your first port of call. Anxiety inducing to most applicants, for those of us with long term conditions the worry goes a little deeper.
The question of whether to disclose for many can be the difference between instant rejection and an invite to interview, and further down the line, commencing gainful employment and the removal of a job offer.
Giving applicants the option of a guaranteed interview, following the definition laid out in the Equality Act 2010, was a huge step forward. In my experience, ticking the box is best avoided, in the same way as identifying as ‘disabled’ on the Equalities Monitoring form.
Yes, it is stated, in bold type, that your information won’t be shared with the hiring personnel, but if that were true, how are individuals invited to a guaranteed interview?
I understand why questions regarding access arrangements are necessary to ensure all interviewees can attend. More probing questions at the application stage, however, will only serve to put people off.
I was mightily relieved when the dreaded question of ‘how many days have you been off due to sickness/ill-health in the past 12/24 months?’ was deemed unacceptable.
Aged 22, filling out the preemployment paperwork for my first graduate job, I was honest, only it didn’t look good. In my final year at University, I’d suffered 2 hospital admissions in the space of 9 months. There followed an excruciatingly uncomfortable phone call from Occupational Health. The exact words I heard were “Two hospital admissions in 9 months – not very good for someone your age.”
As you’d expect, I was exceedingly grateful when they let me through the door, and so not wanting to be considered a liability, the overcompensating began. Only my ill-health isn’t something I’ve done wrong, and should never be viewed as a flaw.
That was the first of many interactions I had with Occupational Health, not a pleasant process, by any means, and one I wish to make easier and less intrusive for others in similar positions.
But first, some important points to consider:
- The use of the term ‘disabled’ and the interpretation that it means ‘less able’. It doesn’t, it means different, and different isn’t necessarily bad.
- Information you share with an employer is entirely at your discretion, barring some exceptions. For further info see ‘Conditions automatically treated as a disability‘ http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5847 (This link will take you away from our website)
- Employers are prohibited from asking specific health related questions, depending on the type of work and stage of the recruitment process. For further info see https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/pre-employment-health-questions-guidance-job-applications-section-60-equality (This link will take you away from our website)
- Many individuals are unaware they’ve suffered discrimination or what to do about it. For further info see ‘Disability Discrimination’
‘Employment law update 2017-2018’
And, some things I’d like to see:
- More focus on employers being People Confident, not ‘Disability Confident’.
- More emphasis on individual hiring made on merit over disability status.
- More clarity on the term ‘Reasonable Adjustments’.
With the enactment of the General Data Protection Regulations later this year, I am confident the fear associated with job applications will become a thing of the past. With 40 years of work before me, I can live in hope.