Two in five workers with less visible disabilities have not disclosed to their employer, study finds

Businesses encouraged to take a ‘holistic view’ of inclusion as separate poll reveals disabled employees could be harbouring financial woes

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Two in five (43 per cent) employees with a less visible disability haven’t disclosed it to their employer, a study has found.

The research by Bupa, which surveyed 626 individuals with disabilities, found that just under a quarter (23 per cent) of those affected haven’t disclosed their condition because they are worried they won’t be believed. 

Additionally, one in five (20 per cent) expressed concerns that their disability might impact on their career opportunities. 

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The study also revealed that workers avoiding telling their bosses about their condition was leading to presenteeism, as more than half (55 per cent) of employees have worked even when they were not feeling well enough. 

A quarter (26 per cent) used holiday time for medical appointments, while 23 per cent have given a false reason for not being able to work while they were ill.

Angela Matthews, head of policy at Business Disability Forum, said disclosing a disability was not a “prerequisite for getting support”, and that employers could spot the signs of a hidden disability through changes in behaviour. 

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“More hospital appointments, increased absences or unwellness, changes in behaviour at work, changes to emotions, changes in performance or output, disengagement in meetings or training opportunities – these are all examples that may indicate someone is not OK or could be struggling,” said Matthews, who added that, putting the law aside, employers must also “treat employees with kindness”. 

Meanwhile, a separate survey by Evenbreak found that almost half (47 per cent) of disabled people had been negatively impacted by the cost of living crisis, while a third (30 per cent) said their current income was no longer enough to live on. 

The survey of 3,000 respondents found 14 per cent of disabled people were looking for new jobs with higher pay, and 19 per cent were looking for additional work.

Addison Barnett, head of inclusion and diversity services at Inclusive Employers, said there was still “a lot of stigma and misunderstanding” around disability and that employers should take a holistic approach.

"Our advice to employers is always to have a holistic view of your organisation when it comes to inclusion, whether that's for a specific group or more widely," said Barnett, adding that this could include "examining your current offerings across the employee lifecycle to determine if they are appropriate, planning for gaps in your policies that need to be adjusted, determining your impact metrics and keeping tabs on advancement, and ensuring less visible disabilities are discussed during your diversity calendar events”.