According to the Daily Mail ‘Studies have also shown that 25 to 30 per cent of people are scared of telling their employers about an ongoing illness because they fear – usually erroneously – that they might lose their job.(1) As a sufferer of ‘pre-existing medical conditions’ should I have declare these conditions to my employer? I can honestly say I work hard to ensure it doesn’t affect my work. In a world where mental health problems are still stigmatized should I have to declare that I suffer from one? Should I risk judgements made about whether or not I will cost companies money in sick pay?
In the last few years I have had a total of 1 sick day. That is less than the average employee in Britain who takes 9.1 sick days per year (according to globalpost.com). Legally I cannot be discriminated against for having these medical conditions but that is sadly not the reality of the world of work.
Why do companies want to know?
Companies want to know because within the UK you are entitled to paid sick leave. Globalpost.com goes on to say that “PwC calculated that sick days cost U.K. business nearly £29 billion ($43.8 billion) a year.(2) This figure is enormous so you can see why an employer wants to know about medical conditions. Employing someone is a calculated risk.
However, just because you have been sick, or well, doesn’t mean that in the future you will suffer from an illness or will have a clean bill of health. In short, knowing a history of a person does not guarantee a future of that person.
Are they allowed to ask?
Although you cannot stop a company from asking, according to the Guardian “The 2010 Equality Act helps protect job applicants against discrimination, by disallowing questions about a candidate's health or sickness record before offering a job”(3) So in short the answer is no. Yet many ask at both selection stage and before. Are we obligated to tell them? No.
However, according to the NHS website(4) they are at times allowed to ask when:
· “They’re trying to find out if you need reasonable adjustments for the recruitment process, such as for an assessment or an interview.
· Where the questions relate to a requirement to vet applicants for the purposes of national security.
· Where the question relates to a person’s ability to carry out a function that is absolutely fundamental to that job”.
It can be argued that by declaring medical problems you may have more leniencies but unless you feel this is necessary you shouldn’t be obligated to tell them. In an ideal world you would be able to declare your medical problems and not face discrimination or judgement. Unfortunately we are not there yet. I am a strong advocate for openness particularly to do with mental health however I feel that this is a personal choice and I shouldn’t be forced into that decision by an application process.