These are extracts from a speech by Remploy Chief Executive Gareth Parry at a BBC conference on “How to Create an Inclusive Workforce.”

It is no wonder that disabled people often worry or have anxiety about whether or when to disclose their disability to a prospective or current employer. Many feel they can’t win either way:

  • Disclose my disability and I run the risk of being discriminated against
  • Don’t disclose my disability and later get accused of not being truthful or deliberately misleading an employer.

For many disclosure is ultimately not an option. For those with, say, a visual impairment, hearing impairment or physical disability it is not a case of whether to disclose, but when. For others, and in particular those with hidden disabilities such as mental health issues or neurological conditions, disclosure is an even greater challenge.

So, to disclose or not to disclose? Quite simply, it’s a personal choice and individuals should use their judgement in individual situations. We should recognise that there are legitimate reasons why someone may choose not to disclose  their disability to their employer:

  • Personal rights – the right not to disclose personal information
  • An individual may not feel the need to disclose a disability if they feel it doesn’t impact the workplace
  • Disclosure doesn’t have to be to the line manager – it could be through an alternative route, such as the HR department
  • Whilst less palatable, individuals may choose not to disclose due to fear of reprisals.

These reasons are all legitimate, but for me they are counter-balanced by the argument for disclosure;

  • The law provides protection to support disclosure – an employer cannot discriminate against an individual on the grounds of disability
  • Disclosure will help identify the best support and reasonable adjustments available
  • Building an open, more positive and stronger relationship with the line manager
  • Sell the benefits and strengths that come from living with a disability.

Those strengths and benefits can include time and logistical management, perseverance and determination, additional skill sets developed through advanced coping strategies, and the creativity and innovation that emerges naturally for many through dealing with everyday life.

Overall therefore disclosure is the way to go but we need to constantly address the barriers that prevent individuals from feeling they can disclose their personal circumstances.