As a careers advisor one question I am frequently asked is how to explain gaps in employment. For people with mental health problems this can be challenging. Some people have concerns as to whether disclosing their health will impact their job prospects. Others would prefer to keep details of their health private, but worry about the legalities of not disclosing.
So what are the legalities?
The Equality Act (2010) protects disabled people from discrimination in the recruitment process. The Act makes it unlawful for employers to ask job applicants questions about disability or health before making a job offer, except in specified circumstances. This aims to prevent employers screening potential employees to avoid recruiting disabled people.
Once a job offer is in place you are only required to disclose your health if your employer asks; if you are not asked you do not have to disclose (The Employment Rights Act, 2002)
Should you disclose your health?
Disclosing your health is a personal choice.
- The employer may view you as being more honest because you have explained your situation.
- It may explain some of the gaps in your CV or application.
- You will not need to worry that the employer may find out at a later date, leading to disciplinary action or dismissal (or at least loss of trust)
- You will not have to worry that someone else might tell the employer about your situation.
- You will be able to attend medical appointments openly
- Your employer and colleagues may be able to offer you support
- The employer may have concerns about your ability to do the job
- You may find it difficult to tell the employer about your situation
- You may be worried that your employer may not respect your confidentiality
How would you disclose?
- Be brief – concentrate on showcasing your skills, experience, qualifications and personal qualities
- Be positive – what strengths do you have as a result of experiencing and/or recovering from mental ill health? Good self-reflection skills? Resilience? Empathy for others?
- Finish on a high – during any periods out of work what achievements/experiences have you had? Volunteering? Training? Travel? Research and reading? Self-reflection?
When could you disclose?
On a Job Application Form
On a Job Application, in answer to the question “Do you have any health problems?”
- Not that would affect my ability to do the job
- I will discuss this at an interview
- Not applicable to this job
- I previously had ________which I have now recovered from and I do not feel that this will affect my work performance
- I have a health condition but I feel I will still be able to do the job as required
- Leave it blank and explain verbally in a job interview if required
- Do not say ‘no’ if the answer is ‘yes’
At an interview or after the job has been offered
Choose an appropriate time to talk when you feel comfortable. The emphasis should be on your skills, motivation and commitment to do the job.
You can prepare a disclosure statement in advance. You can use this at any stage, you choose, during the application process and after the job has been offered.
Here are some examples of disclosure statements:
I have been out of work for health reasons. During this time I have focused on my recovery, studying, volunteering. I am now ready to work.
I have experienced anxiety, which has given me a better understanding of myself, and more empathy for others who may experience similar situations.
I recently took some time out of work due to ill health. I am now well and have learned how to manage stress and ways of coping.
If you would like to speak to a Careers Adviser about your disclosure statement, or would like any other advice around your career goals, you can call us on 0800 100 900.
-Lauren, Careers Adviser