‘I have a disability – do I have to let a prospective employer know?
Sandra, 35, Customer Service Rep
Whether you need to disclose your disability will very much depend on the nature of your condition and whether or not it impacts on your job performance. In Australia there is no legal obligation to disclose your disability unless it’s likely to affect your performance or ability to meet the essential requirements of the job. After that, it’s a personal decision.
You first need to thoroughly review information about the position to determine if your disability will have an impact. If you’re positive that you could do the job without any modifications, adjustments or any risk to your own or others’ safety, then you do not need to disclose. However, if you have any doubt at all, then you need to say something.
There are many positives to be gained from disclosing to your employer. It’s good to develop an open and trusting relationship right from the start, and it enables you to be upfront about any workplace adjustments that you may need. For people whose disabilities are visible, talking with an employer allows you to address any misconceptions they may have and gives you the opportunity to explain how you overcame the challenges you face.
If you decide to disclose, you need to think about when is the right time. Do you want to disclose prior to the interview, during the interview or once you’ve received an offer of employment? Again, this will depend on the nature of your disability. Some applicants prefer to have an open conversation with the employer prior to the interview, particularly if there are concerns in relation to the interview and selection process, building access or mobility issues.
Ultimately, it comes down to your individual preference and what you are most comfortable with. You only need to provide the employer with relevant information and you don’t need to go into unnecessary detail about your disability. Explain if/how it could impact on the job, outline any work-related adjustments you might need, and how this has been achieved in previous employment. Be prepared for questions and let the employer know that government funding is available for any workplace adjustments required.
If you do decide to disclose at the interview, practise what you would say with family and friends, and make sure you use positive language.
Remember, it’s against the law for a prospective employer to discriminate on the basis of disability. And don’t forget, you’re not alone – there are many specialist organisations, including government service providers, who are available to provide you with advice and support.
Jo Messer is a Career Development Specialist who has many years of experience in supporting and guiding students and graduates of some of Australia’s most respected universities, as well as mature-aged clients, across all facets of their career. She is a Professional Member of CDAA and an active member of NAGCAS. Whether you have a specific question about how to achieve your career goal or something more general, Jo is available to provide you with up-to-date advice.