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Can an employer ask me questions about disability/illness?

Yes and No - The Equalities Act means that employers can't ask general medical questions prior to interview. Any questions asked relating to disability/health conditions before a job offer is made must relate specifically to the tasks involved in carrying out the role. They are allowed to ask whether you need any reasonable adjustments to attend the interview (the interview should only test what you would be doing in the job itself).

The Equalities Act also states that public sector employers must be proactive about disability and offering adjustments. People are often concerned if they are asked at application or prior to interview about disability. Employers are not trying to find out so that they can discount you, they are following the law to try to support you.

Do I have to tell an employer about my disability/illness?

No - There is no legal requirement for you to disclose any disability at any time. However, it can sometimes be of benefit both to you and a potential employer to do so.

An employer does have a legal responsibility to make reasonable adjustments for you during the recruitment and selection stage as well as once you’re in a role. However, they can’t do so if you haven’t told them what reasonable adjustments you need.

Yes – Sometimes there is a legal requirement to disclose to comply with the Health & Safety at Work Act. e.g. The Fitness to Teach assessment. You would only be prevented from training to teach if your disability posed a risk to the children's welfare. The majority of disabilities do not pose such a risk.

Do I have to tick the disability box on an application form? Is it dishonest not to tick it?

It is always your choice whether to disclose or not at any stage even when directly asked on a form or following a job offer. However, if you do not disclose something which does adversely affect your ability to do the job the employer can legally dismiss you.

Use any Comments Box to expand on how your disability might affect your work, reasonable adjustments you need, or state that it will have no effect at all. Think of this as an additional opportunity to talk about your abilities in the context of the role.

If you sign a declaration saying that you do not have a disability when in fact you do, this may affect your job at a later date.

Can my referees talk about my disability without my permission?

Your referee may not disclose your disability/illness without your permission, whether directly or indirectly. However, many referees are unaware of this. Talk to your referees about what you do, and don’t, give consent for them to mention. It could be a positive opportunity to emphasise that with the right adjustments you will excel in the role.

How can I tell if an employer is positive about disability?
  • Are they a member of the Disability Confident Scheme, Mindful Employer Charter, Business Disability Forum
  • Organisation led careers days for students with disability (only likely at very large firms)
  • Disability networks/forums within the organisation
  • An easily found disability policy or statement on the website
  • The employer asking you whether they can make reasonable adjustments for you during the recruitment process should be seen as a positive sign