Do I have to disclose an illness or disability to my employer?
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or you suffer a disability, likely at the forefront of your thoughts is, ‘what detail do I have to tell my employer about my illness or disability?’ The future may hold periods of absence from work in order to see doctors and to get treatment. Is this going to affect my employment?
It is important to know your employment law rights.
Do I ‘have’ to tell my employer about my illness or disability?
You do not have to disclose to your employer about a chronic illness or disability unless it impacts your ability to perform the work for which you have been employed or it affects your or anyone else’s health and safety at work. Whether you tell your employer is a personal decision and you are not legally bound to tell them.
Importantly, if you do tell your employer, they are not permitted to share the information with anyone else without your consent.
Are there benefits to telling my employer about an illness or disability?
Telling your employer about a chronic illness or disability is a personal decision. However, there may be circumstances where it is beneficial to keep your employer informed about your condition.
Having a chronic illness may require you to attend frequent medical appointments. If this is the case, you may want to advise your employer so as to not have your attendance record questioned. Likewise, you may need to take medication at work and your employer (and/or co-workers) may question this and how it may affect your work.
Your employer also has a positive obligation to make reasonable adjustments to the work for you, to enable you to perform the inherent requirements of the position. A failure to do so may constitute unlawful discrimination. For an employer to be able to make “reasonable adjustments’,’ you would need to provide to your employer a letter from your doctor setting out the adjustments required for you to be able to perform the work.
If your chronic illness requires special treatment like extra breaks, a different work schedule and so on, you will obviously need to talk to your employer. Remember, however, that you only need to give your employer information about how your condition may impact your work performance.
Essentially, there is no need to tell your employer if:
- you can still do your job in the same way as if you had no illness or disability;
- you are worried about discrimination or harassment at work;
- you do not feel your employer will support you;
- you already have enough support outside the workplace and do not feel you need any more at work.
Protection from dismissal for taking sick leave
In order to be protected from unfair dismissal because of an absence due to illness or injury, you will need to provide evidence of the illness or injury if you are:
- away from work for less than 3 consecutive months or less than 3 months in total over the last 12 months; or
- still using accrued paid sick leave.
The evidence you will need to provide of your illness must be reasonable, such as a medical certificate. However, this does not need to specify the details of your illness. It needs to state that you are unwell/sick and unable to attend work for a specified period.
You are no longer protected from unfair dismissal because of the absence (even if you provide evidence) if:
- your absence is more than 3 consecutive months or more than 3 months in total over the last 12 months; and
- you have not been paid leave (however described) due to the medical condition or disability for the duration of the absence.
Notably, however, your employer cannot ‘automatically’ sack you if you are away from work in excess of 3 months. There may be other options like general protections and state and federal discrimination laws that you can use to protect your employment rights.
Again, you are legally required to tell you employer if your condition affects your ability to do your job, or if it will cause health and safety issues for others.
Get help from an employment lawyer
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or you have a disability and are uncertain whether to advise your employer, either contact your Union or one of our award-winning employment lawyers to confidentially discuss the matter.
Contacting Hall Payne Lawyers
You can contact us by phone or email to arrange your consultation; either face-to-face at one of our offices, by telephone or by videoconference consultation.
This article relates to Australian law; either at a State or Federal level.
The information contained on this site is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of such information. Appropriate professional advice should be sought based upon your particular circumstances. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact Hall Payne Lawyers.