Telling an employer about a disability or mental health condition

Many people worry about disclosing personal information to potential employers for fear of how this will be perceived. Students can worry that they will be automatically rejected, despite their ability to do the job. This is often a  concern for those who have a disability or mental health condition.

The decision to disclose a disability, and when, is a personal one. You may find it helpful to discuss the pros and cons with someone from the Careers and Employability Service. Your decision could be driven by  the employer’s recruitment process and the possibility of reasonable adjustments to ensure your application is treated fairly.


Should you tell the employer?

The Equality Act 2010 supports the rights of people with disabilities by giving greater legal protection against discrimination. It emphasises the legal duty on education providers and employers to make reasonable adjustments. It enables people with disabilities to take part in education, use services, and work.

A person is defined as having a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that results in a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. This protection also applies to people that have been diagnosed with a progressive illness such as HIV or cancer.

Identifying disability-positive employers

An increasing number of employers are disability-aware and committed to improving access for all people across society. To try to assess an employer’s position, it’s recommended to:

  • Check their website for a policy statement on equal opportunities
  • Check for profiles and pictures of employees with disabilities
  • Talk to representatives of the company at careers events to get a first-hand impression
  • Find out if there are any support networks in the company e.g. Shell’s enABLE Network
  • Make contact with DMU alumni now working in the organisation
  • Find out if  there are alternative formats’for application forms etc
  • Review whether the company website refers to any reasonable adjustments available in the selection process?
  • Check whether the organisation will automatically shortlist you as part of an initiative to support the careers of people with disabilities

Disability support schemes

In addition:

Do job adverts feature the Disability Confident scheme logo

Is the organisation a member of the Business Disability Forum?

Is it a supporter of the Mindful Employers ‘Charter for employers

Pros and cons of disclosure

Reasons not to disclose:

  • You may feel that your condition or disability has nothing to do with your ability to do the job
  • You don’t want the employer focusing on your condition or disability, rather than your abilities
  • You may feel that the employer will assume you need more time off, or perhaps you will need additional support to do the role
  • You worry that you will be less favourable to an employer than other candidates

Benefits of disclosing:

  • Disclosing can ensure you receive appropriate ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the selection process
  • Providing incorrect information on a medical questionnaire could invalidate a job offer
  • IT gives you the opportunity to highlight additional strengths e.g. well-developed problem solving or IT skills
  • You may be able to access additional funding to support you with equipment, etc
  • Disclosing allows you to explain any possible gaps in your academic study
  • It enables you to put academic results achieved into context if required

If yes, how and when?


Dos and don’ts of disclosure


  • Focus on your skills, abilities and personal qualities – What you CAN do
  • Provide information that is relevant to your ability to do the job
  • Prepare for how to respond to questions about your disability/health issues
  • Provide brief information on your disability
  • Provide examples of how you manage your disability
  • Provide positive examples of how you have met challenges in the past
  • Make suggestions about any adaptations or adjustments you might find useful


  • Don’t allow your disability to become the focus of your application
  • Don’t assume that an employer will view you in a negative way
  • Don’t assume that the employer will understand your disability without further information from you


At application stage

There is usually no benefit in declaring your disability on your CV, except:

  • Where it has affected your exam performance or work experience
  • Left a gap in your employment history

In these cases, disclosing may prevent your application being disadvantaged at an employer’s CV screening stage.

Most application forms will include a diversity questionnaire covering race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. This is for the employer’s HR department to monitor the diversity of candidates they are attracting. It is important to remember that the recruiter should not have access to this. The employer is not allowed to ask whether you have a disability during application or interview, unless to offer adjustments.

You are under no legal obligation to tell a potential or actual employer that you have a disability (unless there are very specific health and safety risks, which are rare).

At the interview stage

If your initial application is successful you may then be invited to the next stage of the recruitment process. This could be:

  • An interview
  • Online tests such as Numerical or Verbal Reasoning
  • An Assessment Centre to include, presentations, personality assessments and group tasks

You may decide to tell the employer about your disability at this point if it would affect your performance. Employers can offer some reasonable adjustments such as more time to complete online tests or reword interview questions.

When offered the job or when starting the job

If you haven’t already, you may choose to disclose your disability when you have received a formal job offer. Again, this may be if you will require additional support due to your disability. By choosing to:

  • You will be protected by the Equality Act 2010 from this point onwards
  • Your employer can make reasonable adjustments at the beginning of your employment
  • You could avoid unfair criticism or disciplinary action if your disability impacts your performance
  • Your employer can support an Access to Work application

With acknowledgements to “This is your future” by Leonard Cheshire Disability (March 2015) 

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