Disclosure – The Hot Topic


This is a guest post by Sascha. Sascha is the University Specialist Employment Partnerships (USEP) consultant here at Flinders along with Ada. Sascha helps students with disabilities get jobs. Sascha kindly offered to write a few articles in 2019 with a focus on employment for students with disabilities. In this post she talks about disclosure, which is a critical topic for students with disabilities. Join me in welcoming Sascha back to the blog!

Disclosure – The Hot Topic

It’s that time of year when studies are over and the thoughts about looking for employment increase, either because you have finished studies (congratulations!) or you need that summer job. Then the question looms, do I disclose or not?

Having worked in disability for over 7 years and the employment sector for about 15 years I’ve managed to see the good and bad of disclosure. It has now just become second nature to me and I have the discussion with clients and employers every week. I feel that due to that, the more we talk about it, the less of an issue it becomes, so consulting here at Flinders for that last 6 months it has been interesting for me to have such an interest in the topic.

It is such a personal decision it can be hard to advise people on what is best for them. I assist people with everything from very obvious physical disabilities, to people that may have mental health issues, learning difficulties or the hidden type disabilities like epilepsy, diabetes, back issues or asthma. It’s all about knowing yourself and your needs and what impacts on you. It’s not a legal requirement to disclose a condition, but think about this…..does it impact on your ability to do the required tasks to fulfil that role? If the answer is yes then I would recommend you have a discussion.

At this point I start to hear the protests starting to form

“What about the stigma?”

“They will treat me differently”

“I don’t want to be seen or treated as the disabled or different person”

“I told a previous employer and it turned out terrible”

“I wasn’t supported before, why would anyone support me now”

Yes these are all legitimate concerns. So let’s change some of the ideas here.

A recent webinar in conjunction with the NDCO featured Helen Cooke, the Director of My Plus in the UK and person with a disability. She highlighted that disclosure has a tendency to make us think of a secret and that there is something sneaky or something to hide. What if we use the word OPENESS? Does that change the way you think about having the conversation? Does it change the way an employer accepts the information? In a lot of ways it can.

Knowing yourself and what will help you to do a job is part of the key of having the discussion. I had a client who suffered from schizophrenia, this condition was well managed for a long time and he hadn’t had any episodes. He also suffered anxiety. We decided that the schizophrenia didn’t impact on his ability to do the role and that the perceived stigma was a concern for him. The anxiety however made managing certain interactions very confronting, so this was disclosed. He received a lot of support as he started his new role and to this day he is still there and has been well supported with no issues. Had the employer not known about the anxiety he wouldn’t have been able to maintain the role.

When I speak to employers about their needs, apart from skills to do the job, some of the highly considered attributes are honesty, reliability, integrity and motivation. When considering what to be open about, again it is,  is your condition going to impact you doing the tasks, and do YOU know what adaptations or considerations would help you to do that? Keep in mind that many companies these days have medical testing as part of the recruitment process so showing honesty in this process may hold you in good stead. Having an employer find out after you have started a role and suddenly there are things that cant be done due to a condition, may not make you lose your job but it could make the environment very uncomfortable and leave them questioning your honesty.

When to have the conversation can be tricky. You may have to be very up front as part of the recruitment process, but in a lot of cases I recommend go to the interview, see how it goes and get evaluated for the role on the skills needed, be prepared with what you want to say should you be asked and what support you might need to do the role. Knowing this about yourself can be reassuring for employers and I if they are asking what support you need to do the role, is a good indicator that the employer is supportive and open. Most bigger organisations that have Graduate programs or government roles have a requirement to be inclusive and make provisions for a suitable candidate.

If you haven’t disclosed and get offered the role, then have the discussion before you start.

It may be that you don’t disclose as you honestly believe that your condition wont impact on the role. For example someone with depression has been stable for a long time so didn’t disclose it and have been in a new role for 6 months, when something happens that exacerbates their condition. Then I suggest seek support externally and at work, there is nothing wrong with not having disclosed this previously as it didn’t impact on doing the job, but highlighting it has now become an issue again will ensure support is provided.

There are many different resources out there,  me for a start usep@cbsinc.org.au or make an appointment via Careerhub, and National Disability Coordination Officer Program (NDCO) have many resources on their website.


Externally Disability Employment Services (DES) can provide support and access to supportive employers as well.



Things to remember

Its not a legal requirement to disclose

If you don’t disclose and an accident or incident occurs be aware this may impact on your ability to access workcover or similar support. I recommend seeking personally specific advice around this.

Is your ability to do the role impacted?

Know the supports you need – DES and Job Access can provide workplace modifications and supports to employers

Know how to sell your skills to the employer – think about the terms and language you use and be confident, if you are confident then most likely that will instill confidence in them.

Think about how and when you will have the conversation and bounce ideas off someone who can be objective – talking to the Careers team or a USEP/DES consultant about current or past concerns may help them to help you navigate what you can do.

Don’t let past bad experiences make you judge a new employer.

If they don’t want you based on a condition, then maybe they aren’t worth working for anyway !!

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