Disclosure is making a disability known or revealing a hidden disability. As employers, we always want to know the disability as soon as possible to make sure that we can support and accommodate what we need to, and comply with our responsibilities under equality and health and safety legislation.
What do employers need to know about Disclosure?
- A person with a disability has the choice whether or not they tell you about their disability.
- Employers can create a workplace culture where disclosure is embraced by asking all employees whether their needs are being accommodated and opening up discussions about supports available in the workplace with all staff.
- There are a number of benefits to the employee in disclosing their disability to you as their employer as you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments or accommodations and ensure the workplace is accessible. Ensure they are aware of these and that you accommodate all disabilities in your workplace.
- You should be clear on the competencies required for a job from the initial stages of advertising and provide as much information as possible.
- At interview stage, you should provide multiple opportunities and avenues for disclosure of an applicant’s disability.
- You should have clear procedures in place when someone discloses a disability including why you need to know, what will happen with the information, how it will be used and who will have access.
- Whether a person applying for a job in your company tells you during the recruitment and selection process that they have a disability or, if a person working for you tells you they have a disability it is important to treat the information in the same manner.
- Medical terms, names or categories of disability tell us very little about an individual’s capability. Focus on the abilities of the person and where there may be an impact as a result of a disability, work with the person to organise supports and accommodations.
- Don’t be afraid of not knowing anything about disability – the person with a disability is the expert and disability affects everyone differently. Ask the person for guidance on the supports they may need at work.
- There are many grants available to financially support employers.
- Remember that the person with a disability is also anxious about disclosure. They are often not sure how to approach their disclosure and worry about how it will be received. They might want to make their employer aware but are afraid of any negative consequences or stigma. Consider whether a job applicant or employee has attempted to disclose; was there something on their CV or have they talked about working with a disability charity in a volunteer capacity? They may think that they’ve told you about their disability without being explicit.
Guiding Principles for Disclosure:
- Approach the treatment of the information with an open mind and in a positive and constructive manner, acknowledging the challenge of disclosure of disability in recruitment or job retention circumstances.
- Actively listen to what they have to say and take notes of the exact nature of the impact of their disability.
- Give them time to explain their disability to you as they may be nervous about confiding such personal information with a stranger/employer and may be wary of a negative reaction.
- Treat the information in a confidential manner.
- You can ask them about whether they will require any supports in employment. They may even be able to tell you what supports they require or where to access the information.
- Contact your local Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection office for information on the types of grants and supports that are available to you. A person with a disability may be unsure of what supports they require if they are returning to employment having acquired a disability or if they are applying for a job.
- In the case of an interview, do not diverge from the list of interview questions. It is very important to ask the same questions of all candidates.
- Do not ask any questions about their disability which do not relate to job performance or supports required in the workplace.
- Assume that it is possible to accommodate the person’s disability. This can be discussed at a later stage if the person is successful.
- Finally, do not make any firm decisions or conclusions based on a person’s disability. Be open to difference and focus on their knowledge and abilities instead.
Resources for Disclosure
The Association for Higher Education Access & Disability (AHEAD) have written a very helpful guide which goes through case studies, the legal obligations for employers and more.
The National Disability Authority (NDA) has conducted research in the area to help understand the various aspects of disclosure in the public sector.