Disclosing mental health difficulties in the recruitment process.
Should we? Shouldn’t we?
From the 13th to the 19th May was Mental Health Awareness Week. Much of the British media devoted hours of air time, column inches and cyberspace to this sensitive and difficult issue. A good thing too. How else are we to even begin to break down the prejudices and taboos that are riven through the debilitating and often, devastating, world of mental of illness?
In the recruitment sector, there are specific difficulties – principally, how to deal with mental health in the job selection process.
Boosting confidence, skills and social relations
Work is vital to our health, happiness, self-esteem and personal growth. Work enables us to contribute to society. Many of us are lucky enough to take our working life and its benefits for granted. Not so for people experiencing mental health difficulties. For them, the very act of getting to work and performing to their best can be a challenge. Equally, it’s a challenge that, by overcoming, can contribute to the recovery process by boosting confidence and developing skills and social relations.
In the workplace, people who experience mental health difficulties have the legal right to enjoy the same opportunities and to be treated equally as anyone else – without fear of discrimination. Employers’ procedures and guidelines should ensure that these rights are enshrined within their businesses. This is defined by the Equality Act 2010.
At the interview, will I be asked about my mental health?
Whereas historically, employers were allowed to ask about health history prior to interviews and job offers, now it’s different. Employers can only ask these questions at the point of the job offer. The only exception is if a specific ability is required for the role or if absence of a certain ability would result in a health and safety risk. An example might be – a fireman would be expected to be able to be physically and mentally capable of dealing with rescuing someone in danger.
A candidate might find, when a job is offered, that their prospective employer asks them to complete an employment health questionnaire. At this stage, it’s illegal for an employer to withdraw a job offer on the grounds of a disability.
Should I disclose my mental health condition?
You can disclose at any time before, during or after the recruitment process but deciding to do so is a personal decision.
Reasons to disclose –
- You should expect to be treated equally, in spite of mental health difficulties
- If you do disclose, you should expect some discussion to ensue regarding how your difficulties may affect your performance.
- Having disclosed, you may feel less pressure in the workplace.
- You might feel better placed to ask for help when you need it rather than be seen to be struggling in your role.
- You may be entitled to receive what the Equality Act calls ‘reasonable adjustments’. Through discussion and negotiation, these adjustments to your work should be designed and implemented in the spirit of enabling you to fulfil the role without being disadvantaged by your difficulties.
- These days, many employers focus on a person’s ability to do their job rather than the nature of their health or disability
- Some organisations have an Equal Opportunities Policy. These employers commit to employing without prejudice.
Reasons not to disclose –
- Discussing a mental health issue can be challenging
- You may fear discrimination and feel judged
- You may feel that you want to keep your health issues private, as you may feel they won’t affect your work performance or they are not relevant to your ability to do the job
- Competition for jobs. You might fear that disclosing a mental health issue will make you appear less employable.
If you decide to disclose, what should you disclose?
The process can be positive and empowering. After all, your mental health difficulties may have given you a wealth of valuable experiences – coping strategies, self-esteem, an increased empathy with others.
1 in 6 of us endures mental health difficulties at any one time. You won’t be alone in disclosing.
You may choose to disclose on application or in a covering letter. Remember not too over-disclose. The information you give should be relevant to the post you are applying for. You might decide to disclose once a job offer is made.
Here to help
What if you’re unsure about disclosure?
Then, talk with people you trust and who know you. Of course, you could also talk to us. We specialise in helping candidates in the accountancy sector. We’ll be delighted to give you confidential and objective guidance.
Or complete our submission form.
Here’s a list of other sources of information.