What do I tell them?
"What do I tell them about my mental health problem?" is probably the most frequently asked question asked by people filling in application forms or preparing for interviews.
Whether applying for a job, a college place or voluntary work, knowing what to say or whether to say anything at all is always a difficult area. Fear of the reaction such disclosure may receive is also an important contributory factor but it's also important to avoid generalisations about how employers or others will react. Some people report incidents of immediate loss of interest but not disclosing can result in problems later on. For others it opens up the scenario to put the right support in place and people's experience of mental ill health can be a very positive attribute to offer a potential employer.
The Equality Act 2010 superceded the Disability Discrimination Act along with other other legislation. One of the major changes brought in by The Equality Act is that except in very restricted circumstances or for very restricted purposes, employers are not allowed to ask any job applicant about their health or any disability until the person has been offered a job either outright or on conditions, or included in a pool of successful candidates to be offered a job when a position becomes available. This includes asking such a question as part of the application process or during an interview.
Equality & Human Rights Commission website carries lots of information and guidance on The Equality Act 2010.
EHRC Helplines - 08456 046 610 (England) 08456 05 510 (Scotland) 08456 048 810 (Wales)
The former Disability Rights Commission, now part of the Equality & Human Rights Commission offered this advice in relation to employment:
'An employee is not legally obliged to declare a disability to an employer or prospective employer. Naturally people will be reluctant to disclose their disability to a prospective employer fearing this will result in the failure of their job application. However, disclosure can help to alert employers to a person’s particular needs and thereby facilitate the provision of reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process, which otherwise may not be provided due to the prospective employer’s lack of knowledge of disability. If a prospective employer is not aware of a job applicant’s disability they may have a defence to a claim of failure to make reasonable adjustments.'
'It is up to you whether you wish to tell your employer about your disability. However, if your disability actually affects your way of working, you should talk to your employer and to your colleagues about it if you want a reasonable adjustment to be considered.'
'If your employer doesn’t know that you are disabled, your employer may not have to make changes which would help you. However, if, for example, your condition gets worse… and you feel you may need a reasonable adjustment, you can change your mind and tell your employer at a later date. From that time onwards your employer may have to take some action.'