“Disclosure” refers to a person’s personal decision to tell another about their mental illness and/or disability. The need to make a choice about whether to disclose is something that people living with mental illness face while seeking and engaging in employment. Important facts to know about disclosure include:
When do I have to disclose?
Disclosure is a personal choice. A person has no reason to disclose their mental illness unless it is going to affect their performance in the workplace, or if it is felt that the employer’s knowledge would improve safety in the workplace. An employer can ask about mental illness if:
- Adjustments are required to ensure a fair and equal opportunity interview process
- Mental illness may impact on the requirements of a job
- An employee is only required to advise their employer of medications that they are taking if it is going to impact on work performance, e.g. medication side effects.
What are the benefits and consequences of disclosure?
Possible benefits of disclosure include:
- Using life experiences as a way to demonstrate suitability to the position
- The potential for educating others about the nature of mental illness
- Obtaining work-related adjustments
- Explaining gaps on a person’s resume
Possible consequences of disclosure include:
- Stigma, discrimination and negative stereotyping in the workplace
- Unplanned disclosure, which can negatively affect a person’s self esteem and confidence in the workplace, particularly in future situations
When can’t an employer ask about mental illness?
State and federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. An employer cannot ask:
- How a person acquired their mental illness
- Specific details of a person’s mental illness
- About mental illness if it does not relate to the requirements of the position
What are the obligations of my employee?
Employers must respect the right that employers have to privacy, and must keep all information confidential. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 also outlines that employers have the obligation to prevent harassment and not discriminate on the basis of disability.
What are the obligations of my coworkers?
If a person discloses their mental illness to a coworker, it is against the law for this person to discuss any details of this unless express permission is given by the person who disclosed their mental illness.
Further information about disclosure:
People should be well informed about disclosure and consider what their best options are to suit a particular situation. For further information:
- On disclosure view the document Choosing Your Path, Disclosure: It’s a Personal Decision at: http://pubsites.uws.edu.au/rdlo/disclosure/pdfs/disclosure.pdf
- The Australian Human Rights Commission provides useful information on employment and the Disability Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of disability. For more information visit: http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/faq/Employment/employment_contents.html
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