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Disclosing a disability - Workplace

It is against the law for employers to discriminate against you because of your disability by:

  • refusing to offer you employment
  • dismissing you or refusing to allow you to work
  • refusing to offer promotion or training
  • treating you unfavourably in any other way.

You have no legal obligation to disclose your disability to your employer, although disclosure may be practical in certain situations. For example, if there need to be workplace modifications made.

Do I have to disclose my disability on pre-employment forms?

You do not need to disclose your disability. It is against the law to discriminate against a job applicant because of disability.

If a pre-employment form asks for information about disability or illness, you have no legal obligation to disclose and can write 'not applicable' for any disability that will not impact on your work performance.

However, if an employer does ask you to disclose in writing any pre-existing injury or illness that might be reasonably expected to affect your ability to perform the normal duties of a job and you don't disclose, you might miss out on workers' compensation if your condition recurs or gets worse on the job.

Do I have to disclose my disability on pre-employment medical tests?

You do not need to disclose your disability unless it directly relates to the genuine requirements of the job.

For example, physical tests should relate strictly to your ability to carry out the work, such as lifting a certain weight or sitting stationary for a long time. Psychological and aptitude tests should relate specifically to the genuine and reasonable requirements of the job.

These tests must be given to all job applicants and employees, not just to anyone an employer thinks may have a disability or injury. The results must be kept completely confidential.

What about my privacy?

If your employer asks for personal information, they must do so in a way that is fair and not intrusive and:

  • tell you why they are asking for it
  • advise you of any consequences if you don't provide the information. For example, you might risk missing out on workers' compensation if you're injured on the job
  • allow you access to your information
  • tell you who will receive copies of your information and give you their contact details.

Can my employer lawfully discriminate?

An employer can discriminate against an employee on the basis of disability in limited situations. For example, an employer may lawfully discriminate if you cannot perform essential tasks and it causes unjustifiable hardship on the business to make special adjustments.

What are some health and safety issues to consider?

An employer may refuse a job to a person with disability in order to protect the health, safety or property of any person, including the job applicant. However the employer must seriously consider if there are any alternatives to this action.

Are there any exceptions to the law?

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some general exceptions. This means that discrimination may not be against the law in particular circumstances.

There are also specific exceptions relating to making reasonable adjustments for someone with disability in employment.

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