It is usually not essential to disclose medical or personal information about your disability. The choice to disclose is yours.
The Federal Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) protects all people in Australia from discrimination in the workplace.
Employers must provide reasonable, work-related adjustments to enable people to perform the requirements of the job. An exception to this is when the adjustments would cause hardship to the employer, such as disproportionate cost.
Information about a disability is confidential and is protected by the DDA and state and federal information privacy principles. You must first consent to any information being shared and it must be kept confidential.
There are various reasons why you may choose to disclose a disability. You need to consider your decision carefully. You do not have to disclose this information unless you are unable to perform the basic requirements of the job, or it affects the safety of you or your co-workers.
Reasons for disclosing may include:
Be clear about your desired outcome from disclosing. Negotiations work best when you have a clear goal in mind. Your disclosure should focus on both your abilities to do the work and strategies for minimising the issues relating to your disability.
When discussing the adjustments you require in the workplace, explain clearly how they can be set up. Be able to suggest vendors, service providers and probable costs.
Consider who needs the information. At each stage of the application process, you will be dealing with different people, requiring different information, delivered in a different manner.
Application forms often ask direct questions about disability. You may feel that your disability has led to life experiences that increase your ability to do a job.
Example: I am very adept at picking up new software, as seen with my use of specialist voice-activated text input software that is useful given my carpal tunnel syndrome.
You often need to provide a covering letter or personal statement as a part of your application. You could mention your disability in a paragraph relating to a skills area that you have developed in relation to your disability.
Example: I am skilled in training people as evidenced by my regular training of personal assistants to help me with my personal care needs due to multiple sclerosis.
Some jobs have a medical questionnaire that may ask questions related to disability. If the medical form is compulsory you will have to answer honestly especially as the questions may relate to occupational health and safety issues. Your information must be treated confidentially and sensitively.
Example: To ensure my safety and the safety of others it is important that I can use my visual fire alarm alerting device in the workplace as my hearing impairment affects my speed at responding to fire alarms.
Some employers have a separate equal opportunity monitoring form that all applicants must fill in. This form is to compare the mix of people applying for their jobs to the mix of people in society. They are separate to your job application forms and usually remain in the Personnel or Human Resources departments. That means the people who decide which candidates to interview do not normally see them.
Example: I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but this is well controlled by medication and will not require any work-related adjustments at present.
You may need adjustments made for the interview. Contact the appropriate person such as the human resources officer or the convener of the interview panel. Give them as much warning as possible, so they have time to implement the changes and to show how you can manage matters relating to your disability.
Example: I received notification of an interview and test on the 6th June and I was just contacting you to inform you that I will require the text of the test to be in a size 18 font due to my visual impairment. Alternatively, if you do not have an electronic copy enlarging the test on a photocopier to 140% would also be fine.
You might decide it easier and more natural to talk about your disability at the interview. If you have a visible disability, it may be useful to have something prepared to say.
Example: You have noticed that I use a walking aid; this is due to congenital scoliosis. My requirements to support this only include a standard ergonomically correct office chair.
You might not need to disclose your disability until you actually receive a job offer, as you believe it will have limited impact on your work, but it might require some workplace adjustments. In this case, it is helpful to do this as soon as possible.
Example: I thought it might be useful for you to know that I was diagnosed as having dyslexia; this does not affect my written work, as you will have seen from my application and test. However, I require a laptop for all written notes.
Government employment assistance funding may cover the cost of work-related modifications, adaptive equipment and communication devices. The funding may also cover the costs of services such as Auslan interpreting and training in disability awareness, deafness awareness and mental health first aid.
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You can talk to someone about making this decision by: