INSIDER AUGUST 2018

Are applicants legally obliged to disclose mental illness during an interview?

No, a candidate does not have to mention any medical condition during a job interview. Even if asked, there is no obligation to answer the question.

Generally, an organised employer will provide a health questionnaire once a job offer has been made and accepted. The purpose of this form is to see if the incoming employee suffers from any medical condition(s) which could affect their ability to perform the role, and which could warrant adjustments being made to assist them in their role. A simple example could be an employee with ongoing back problems that may need a special chair or someone with vision problems who needs a larger computer screen. Generally you would only disclose conditions that could affect your role, and which may warrant a consideration of adjustments. Employers expect honesty so if there is a reasonable probability that your mental health will impact on your ability to do your job then you should disclose it. If not, are they legally obliged to then disclose it if they are offered the job?

It would not be breaking the law but you do have to be careful. If an employee states in the health questionnaire that they don’t have any medical condition(s) which would affect their work and then takes considerable time off due to an ongoing condition, there is an argument that they have not been truthful. An employer could pull them up on this. If, however, your absence is very limited this should not be a concern. Mental health is high on most employers’ radar these days and there are many things that can be put in place to help support employees with mental health problems, enabling them to stay in work. If employees do not disclose mental illness then it can make it harder for their employers to support them in a timely manner for example, if their work is suffering as a result of declining mental health but the employer is not aware they will just think that the work is not up to standard and take steps relating to that.  If, however, the employee has been honest regarding their mental health then there are options that an  can take such as flexible working, adjusting the workload or extending deadlines, where possible, to reduce the pressure that they are under. Is it breaking the law to not disclose mental illness and then need to take time off as a result?

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