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Do employees have to tell their employers they have a disability?

Most employers know that they shouldn't ask applicants at interview if they have a disability or other health-related questions, except in a few very limited circumstances.

This is to ensure that applicants are offered work on their own merits and are not discriminated against because of disability.

Candidates and disability

But from the other side of the interview table, do prospective employees have to disclose their disability to their employer?

There's no general duty for them to do so, but if they do volunteer this information, interviewers must not respond by asking further questions about it. They should take particular care not to be influenced by the information in their selection decisions.

Candidates should discuss their condition, however, when it might pose a risk at work to themselves or others.

And employers should ask candidates whether they need any 'reasonable adjustments', sometimes also called 'access requirements', for any part of the recruitment process. This is not the same as asking a candidate whether he or she is disabled.

What about employees?

If an employee with a disability would like their employer to make reasonable adjustments for them, then they may well have to disclose their condition.

Employers can't usually be held liable for failing to make reasonable adjustments if they did not know about the disability.

But employers are expected to do all they 'reasonably' can to find out if an employee is disabled.

If someone working for the employer - such as another employee, an occupational health adviser or recruitment agency - knows of the disability, the employer will not usually be able to claim it didn't know, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission's Employment Statutory Code of Practice.

Once a disability has been disclosed, it should be kept confidential by the employer unless the employee has made it clear they are happy for the information to be shared.

Of course, in some instances, a disability may be obvious - for example, an amputee or wheelchair user - in which case confidentiality cannot be an issue.

In other instances, where the employee needs support from colleagues, or there are health and safety reasons, colleagues may also need to be aware.

Acas publications and services

For detailed information on this and related issues see the new Acas guide pdf icon Disability discrimination: key points for the workplace [601kb], which is available for free download.

General advice on Disability discrimination is also available which includes the information you need to honour your legal obligations.

Acas experts can visit your organisation to review existing equality and diversity procedures and help you ensure that they are legally compliant. See Equality and diversity: how Acas can help for more information.

Practical training is also available on Disability discrimination, Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010, Employment law update and Recruitment.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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