Should I disclose my brain injury to an employer?

Injury disclosure is a very personal decision, and I often review this with my clients prior to commencing the job-search process. First of all, the job goal you are aiming for needs to be suitable to maximise your chances of success. Does the job goal utilise some of your strengths? Are you able to complete the inherent requirements of the role? Inherent requirements are the essential requirements of the job. For example, if you are applying for a job as a truck driver, but you do not have a truck licence, the employer is under no obligation to hire you, whether you have a disability or not. You must be qualified for the job you are applying for. If you are qualified for the job, but your disability means that you may struggle with some aspects of it, the employer is required to make ‘reasonable accommodations’ to enable you to do the work. For countries who have anti-discrimination laws, the employer could be found to be discriminating if they do not hire you (or if they fire you) because of disability-related issues if it is found that job modifications, equipment, etc., could have been provided to enable you to do the work, and you can fulfil the inherent requirements of the work. In Australia and America, anti-discrimination laws do not require an employer to make adjustments or accommodations if the cost of doing so would be unreasonable. For example, if installing an elevator would be the only way to enable an employee with a disability to access areas of a worksite that were essential to the job, but the cost of providing the elevator was excessively high, it could be considered unreasonable to expect the employer to do this. Anti-discrimination laws may differ in each country, so it is important to know your rights.

It is also important to have medical approval from your specialist to confirm that you are medically fit to work. If the job you wish to undertake is safe, suitable, and sustainable, you will need to consider whether you want to disclose your injury or disability to the employer. Some people may choose to disclose during the application process. Some may choose to disclose during the interview process or after they get the job. Some may choose not to disclose at all.

Employers receive many applications for one vacant position, and I personally believe that the decision to interview someone following receipt of their application should be based on skills. If, however, you will need some significant (yet reasonable) work adjustments, they may take some time to implement, so advising the employer early on can build trust and facilitate a plan for your commencement. Approaching the discussion with a solution-focused framework will help your negotiations.

If the workplace modifications you require are less costly, such as an ergonomic chair, or are practical accommodations, such as adjusting work hours to cope with fatigue, it may be better to have those conversations at the interview, rather than in your application for the job.

If you have developed effective memory management strategies and other strategies to manage your injury limitations and have trialled your ability to cope with the work, you may not need to disclose your injury. This is a personal decision. If your injury is related to work insurance, however, you should talk to a lawyer regarding what you may be required by law to disclose on a job application form that seeks information about work-related injuries. This will differ between countries.

By Nicole Yeates, Best-selling author of Holding on to Hope, Finding the ‘New You’ after a Traumatic Brain Injury

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