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Navigating disclosure: Our top tips!

Posted on January 13, 2022

Sometimes a health issue can make completing work difficult. You wouldn’t work with a broken arm, but more invisible conditions can be a little harder to navigate… Informing your employer of any ongoing difficulties you are facing is called disclosure – and it can be very hard to do, but will ultimately help you turn up to work as your best, most authentic self.  

We here at Creative Access have put together our top tips on how to overcome this and helpful advice that’s useful to know along the way… 

What are the advantages of disclosing a disability?  

Adjustments can help you perform at your best, providing tailored support and works to reduce barriers you might face in the workplace. Although this decision is a personal one, we would recommend telling employers about any condition, physical or mental, that you may have, because there could be potential risks if not. 

It’s so helpful when staff feel able to disclose issues. It means companies can be much more flexible and understanding on creating a pathway together to best support that individual. There’s often such a difference when an individual is given the help they need.” 

Which disabilities do I have to tell my employer about?  

The 2010 Equality Act describes disability as a “physical or mental impairment that has substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” 

You have an ‘impairment’ if your physical or mental abilities are reduced in some way compared to most people. This could be the result of a diagnosed medical condition (like arthritis in your hands that means you can’t grip or carry things as well as other people) but it doesn’t need to be. If you’re suffering from stress, you might have mental impairments – like difficulty concentrating – as well as physical impairments such as extreme tiredness and difficulty sleeping.  

Any impairment can have substantial and long-term adverse effects on your ability to carry out day-to-day activities. It doesn’t have to stop you doing anything, but can make it harder.  

What if I am treated differently when I am open about my disability?  

This is known as disability discrimination, and it is against the law; disabilities fall under the 9 protected characteristics of the Equality Act. There is a difference between your employer making reasonable adjustments and you feeling discriminated against. If you feel uncomfortable by the actions made by your company, we recommend reaching out to your HR Division for further advice. Disability discrimination could include things like failing to provide reasonable adjustments, e.g., wheelchair access, harassment, being treated less favourably and having information about your disability shared without your prior knowledge.  

Most companies have an equal opportunities statement or policy that is designed to prevent things like this from happening, but this is not always the case. Companies often welcome being informed where discrimination is happening in their organisation, so they can take action or make changes to prevent this in the future. 

‘I was so worried about telling my line manager about my panic attacks, but she was really understanding and gave me time off to attend therapy appointments. In the end, it definitely impacted positively on my performance and wellbeing at work.’ 

Do I have to inform my employer? 

You don’t have to inform your employer, but it may be in your best interests, especially if you would benefit from reasonable adjustments being made to make your working day easier. 

What are reasonable adjustments? 

If a disabled person’s difficulties are severe enough to impede efficiency in everyday activities, they may need reasonable adjustments. 

And reasonable adjustments may look like…  

  • Someone with Dyslexia may experience challenges with reading fluency. Your employer can provide adjustments such as screen reading/read-aloud and proof-reading software or by presenting information visually to help you process documents easier 
  • A candidate with ADHD may experience challenges with time management and organisation and could benefit from shared calendars, a separate working area to help them focus and stationary to help aid their working style  
  • An individual experiencing mental health difficulties such as Anxiety or Depression may benefit from a designated safe space to retreat to when overwhelmed and flexible deadline adjustments. It may also be beneficial to complete a Wellness Action Plan to discuss the working style that benefits you most and anything that could hinder you in the workplace 
  • Someone with Autism may get anxious about unfamiliar environments and overwhelmed by bright lightsAdjustments could include assigning a designated colleague to help with moving around the building and a work space with adjustable lights and modified equipment so that the work environment is more recognisable. 

The above are not exclusive to these conditions, but show the array of adjustments that you could be entitled to. Your employer has a duty to provide extra support for you, whether you are applying for a job or are an employee, but they can only do this if they are aware.  

Any costs occurred from reasonable adjustments are covered by the employer; employees are not responsible for paying for these. 

 “I used to avoid going into the offices because I got easily distracted by noises and overwhelmed by the fast-paced meetings. I was really worried about telling my workplace about my ADHD, but it eventually started to affect my work…I’d advise speaking up! Now I have somewhere special and quiet to do my work and its much, much better” 

Ultimately, disclosure of health issues at work is a personal choice, and you can say as much or as little as you want. It might be helpful to think about the role you may play in educating your organisation, or setting an example to those who might also be afraid to speak up about their invisible battles.  

Our Top Five Tips for Navigating Disclosure! 

  1. Advocate for yourself!  
  1. Know your rights 
  1. Don’t be worried about the conversation 
  1. Timing isn’t everything, you can always mention when circumstances have changed. 
  1. Support is available – check out our links below! 

Useful links and content 

  • Creative Access disability survey findings 2022
  • Creative Access employer resource for creating more accessible workplaces
  • Scope is a disability equality charity in England and Wales, they provide information and support, and strive to create a fairer society 
  • Disabilityrightsuk is a leading organisation led, run and working to support disabled people, they have lots of free, helpful advice on their website 
  • Mind provide advice and support to anyone experiencing mental health problems and tries to promote understanding and awareness. This post explores disclosing a mental issue in your workplace 

Still stuck?  

  • Check out the pros and cons of disclosing a mental health issue! 
  • Take a look here where the Diversity Movement has a great blogpost discussing invisible illness. 

On the go? 

Here are some apps that might improve your routine and productivity: 

  • Sensory apps – Range of sensory apps to help with relaxation and overstimulation  
  • tiimo – Visual learners, or anyone who appreciates graphics, typically love Tiimo. This visual daily planner helps users keep a routine, stay organized, and meet goals 
  • I cant wake up! – alarm for those who struggle with sleep/time management (the alarm only shuts off after completing math, memory, and order questions or can play music to prevent a return to deep sleep)