Other people at work
Covered in this section:
Risks of infections from others
What if you do not disclose, how do you manage?
You don’t just have to worry about yourself or your employer when you get to work, you have relationships at varying levels, real friendships, work friends, acquaintances, you may not want to tell them anything, you may want to explain everything. Disclosing to your employer to get help with reasonable adjustments is one thing, but you might be less keen to disclose to colleagues for fear that they might think you are getting preferential treatment.
As a general rule, employers do not need to know about your health status. There's no law that say that an employee (or a prospective employee) must provide specific information on health.
Under the Equality Act 2010, potential employers are not allowed to ask health-related questions, except in specific circumstances. You don’t have to disclose a health problem or disability to an employer, unless it could cause health and safety problems eg. if your M.E. causes cognitive problems, there would be an issue if you couldn’t concentrate and your safety or someone else’s might be at risk as a result.
You might worry that your personal information may be made public, you may suffer discrimination, or your bosses may simply lose confidence in your ability to do the job.If you tell your boss or employer about your illness, you can ask them to treat the information as confidential.
If you disclose your health details and your employer is supportive, it could be easier to make 'reasonable adjustments' ie. changes to your workload, to have time off for appointments, or to deal with periods of sickness. If you do not disclose, then you are not protected under the Equality Act 2010 but are just another member of staff.
Disabled people and their employers are entitled to apply for help from the government through Access to Work. Disabled people are also entitled to apply for disability benefits.
The MS Society has information on telling employers that is useful across many conditions.
Bullying in the workplace is a real issue not just for people with health conditions, but being in any way different, or needing what others could consider 'extra help' can open the way to bullying. Most companies have procedures in place to put a stop to this. WorkingRights contains over 100 articles written by experts who continually update and add new content. They have an interesting article on : Bullying
If you are receiving treatment or have a lowered immune response, it is worth considering that you may be at risk from other people while using public transport to get to work and whilst at work.
Many people decide not to disclose at work. They don’t want the hassle of dealing with colleagues unless they really have to. They are also concerned about the reaction of their employers. They may find they can manage by swapping shifts or taking advantage of flexitime to cover medical appointments. People who have not disclosed have found ways around this to manage their job but staying silent can be isolating: explore the websites of the charities which represent your disability or health condition to find out about peer support and helplines.
‘I wanted to feel as normal as possible so I didn't feel like I had to tell everyone'
‘I just swap shifts with people to make time for medical appointments’
‘I work in an industry that allows for a lot of flexibility so I can work on weekends and have time free in the week to manage hospital and clinic appointments'
‘my company allows flexible working so I can make the time up without people asking awkward questions. I don’t like lying’
‘I don’t want to tell my employer about my condition as I don’t want to be seen as ‘difficult’ I just want to get on with my job as I have always done’