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Talking to your employer about disability

You do not have to tell your employer about your impairment or condition. You might want to do this if you need support to do your job. This could be because your condition or something at work has changed.

Disabled people can experience discrimination at work, but talking with your employer could help you to get the support you need to do your job.

Once your employer knows you are disabled, they must consider your request for support under the 2010 Equality Act. This means that if you want adjustments at work, you need to tell your employer about your impairment or condition.

Discrimination at work

If you’ve just been diagnosed

Getting a diagnosis is often a difficult time. Being diagnosed does not mean that anything needs to change for you at work. Do not make snap decisions based on what you read online about your condition. Get an assessment to find out how it might affect your work. This should be someone with experience of helping disabled people to stay in work. This is called vocational rehabilitation.

Reasonable adjustments

Deciding when to talk about disability

Talk to your employer about your impairment if you’re worried that you cannot do your job now or that something might change in the future.

Monitor how your condition affects you and how you perform in your job. If you can, talk to your manager before they notice that something’s changed. If your employer does notice before you choose to speak to them, arrange a meeting as soon as you can. Explain what’s happening for you, and that you had not realised that it was affecting your performance at work. If you're not confident talking to your line manager on your own, ask for someone to come with you. This could be a union representative or someone you work with.

Make it clear to your employer that you want to talk about how you can make things work together. Try to avoid a situation where your employer does not know that you’re disabled, and just thinks that you cannot do your job. HR departments sometimes call this a 'performance' or 'capability' issue.

You should not do anything at work that puts you or the people you work with at risk.

Explaining why you have not talked about your condition yet

If you’ve been in your job a while, you may be concerned about explaining why you have not 'disclosed' your impairment earlier. You should feel under no pressure to do this, but it may help to plan what you're going to say. For example:

  • your condition has recently changed, and it is only now that it is affecting your work
  • your work has changed – it was not a problem before, but now it is
  • you've only just felt able to talk about your condition.

Talking about funding for adjustments

Think about what kind of reasonable adjustments would help you do your job. For example, an adapted desk, an ergonomic keyboard or flexible working. Access to Work can help to pay for adjustments. If you do not know what you need, Access to Work can also pay for assessments.

Reasonable adjustments at work

Getting emotional support

Realising that you might need changes or support at work, or that you might not be able to do your job, can be a big shock. It can be an emotional and life-changing experience. You may also be worrying about what your colleagues think.

If you can get some support outside of work, it will help you to take positive steps at work. You may be able to get some support from other organisations through your employer.

Get as much support as you need from your support network. Some organisations can also offer support:

If your employer rejects adjustments at work

Employers must look at the benefit of adjustments to the disabled person. If they reject a request, they must say why.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 15/07/2021

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Attitudes towards disability in the workplace

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