Do I have to disclose an illness or disability to my employer?

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Home > Blog > Do I have to disclose an illness or disability to my employer?

If you are a person with a disability or have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may be grappling with whether or not to disclose this personal information to your employer. Your decision to do so may be dependent on whether you are required to tell your employer. Here’s what you should know about your right to withhold information about an illness or disability from your employer.

Am I required to tell my employer about my chronic illness or disability?

Unless it will affect the way you undertake the tasks you have been hired to complete or it will affect the health and safety of another person at work, you are not legally required to disclose your chronic illness or disability to your employer.

If you do decide to tell your employer about your disability or chronic illness they cannot share the information with anyone else unless you consent to it.

How can disclosing my chronic illness or disability to my employer be beneficial?

Although the decision to tell your employer about your chronic illness or disability remains a personal one, there are benefits to disclosing the information.

If your condition requires you to attend regular medical appointments it can be helpful for your employer to understand this so they do not speculate about your frequent absences and so they can help manage your workload. Similarly, if you need to take regular medication it may be prudent to inform your employer so they can amend your workload or hours if it is likely that the medication will affect the way you work or when you are able to work.

Employers have a positive obligation to make reasonable adjustments which enable you to perform the job you have been hired to do. If they fail to make reasonable adjustments it may be considered discrimination. To ask your employer for reasonable adjustments, you do not need to disclose your illness, simply inform them of the adjustment required and how it will help you to complete your job better. You may need supporting evidence in the form of a medical certificate, which does not need to explicitly state your chronic illness or disability.

Many people with illnesses and disabilities do not disclose their condition/s to their employer, and generally, there is no need to inform your employer if:

  • you are capable of undertaking your job in the same manner as if you did not have an illness or disability;
  • you are concerned that disclosing your condition/s may open you up to discrimination and/or harassment at work;
  • you do not believe your employer will be supportive or that the workplace culture does not foster a supportive environment; and/or
  • you feel that you have adequate support from a spouse, family and/or friends and do not need to extend your support system to the workplace.

What protections are in place if I need to take sick leave related to my chronic illness or disability?

For protection from unfair dismissal due to an illness or injury-related absence, you will need to provide your employer with evidence of the illness or injury (usually in the form of a medical certificate) if you do not attend work for less than three consecutive months or less than a total of three months over a 12-month period or if you are still using your paid personal leave balance.

The evidence you provide does not need to specify the exact details about your chronic illness or disability, just that you are (or were) unfit for work for a specified period due to illness.

If you are absent for more than three consecutive months or more than three months accumulatively during a 12-month period, even if you have medical certificates, and you take part or all of the three-month period (consecutive or accumulative) as unpaid leave you will no longer be protected from unfair dismissal due to illness.

Importantly, your employer cannot simply terminate your employment if you are absent from work for more than three months. There are discrimination laws in place which may be relevant for protecting your employment rights.

Seek legal advice

If you are considering disclosing your chronic illness or disability to your employer or are experiencing problems at work since seeking reasonable adjustments, disclosing your illness or disability or taking extended leave due to your condition and want to know what your rights are, our experienced employment lawyers can assist.

Call for a free case assessment