FAQ: Should I tell my employer about my condition?

It’s one of our most frequently asked questions: should I tell my employer about my condition? Here’s why our answer will almost certainly be, “yes”. 

Why? Because, the moment you tell your employer that you have a condition e.g. PMDD, Endometriosis, PCOS, Menopause, they have a responsibility to provide support - also called ‘reasonable adjustments’ – to help you do your job and remain in work.  

If your employer knows about your condition and fails to support you, then you may have a case for discrimination on the grounds of disability. However, the important thing to note here, is that employers can only be found to discriminate against an employee (or a potential employee) because of their disability where they know or ought reasonably to have known that the individual has a disability. This is why it is helpful to be open about a condition.

In a recent case (published in People Management magazine), Mrs Z had suffered from mental and psychiatric impairments for a number of years, including stress, depression, low mood and schizophrenia. She did not disclose these to her employer at the outset of her employment. When asked about her absence in her previous role she said this was because of injuries following a car accident and stated in her medical questionnaire that she did not have a disability or any mental or physical impairment.

During her employment Mrs Z was absent on 85 days, of which 52 were recorded as sickness absence. The reasons given by Mrs Z were physical ailments and not the mental health conditions that were in fact the real reason for her absence. Sound familiar? 

Subsequently, Mrs Z was absent for a further period, during which she was signed off with low mood. At this point, she admitted to her employer that she was feeling incredibly depressed (although she said the reason for this was difficulties with her son). However, what she didn’t disclose was that she had been hospitalised for more than two weeks. Following this period of absence, Mrs Z was dismissed because of her attendance record.

Following her dismissal, Mrs Z tried to claim disability discrimination against her employer. However, in this case, her employer was found not liable. This is because Mrs Z had continued to withold information about her mental health, which meant that her employer could not have been expected to know that she was disabled. However, had she been open about her condition, there may have been a different outcome. 

One to keep in mind the next time you consider calling in sick and blaming it on a stomach bug…

Download our guide: How to Tell Your Manager about a Reproductive Health Condition