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Managing employees with hidden disabilities: where to start?

Category: Blogger's Corner

Image of peoples shadow. Managing employees with hidden disabilities: where to start?

96% of illnesses are invisible. And so are many of the people that suffer them. People don’t disclose an illness to their employer. 74% of people who suffer with a disability do not use any visible aid.

That means employers, and great managers, have to be open to discussion and innovation to successfully serve their workforce. Most chronic illnesses aren't visible to the untrained eyes. The main issues employers find difficult are delicately handling problems that arise from health concerns, and how to handle an employee's need for substantial time off.

Tips for managing people with hidden disabilities There are a couple of things a responsible employer can consider doing to support staff members with hidden health conditions.

  • Flexible working: Advances in technology means that it’s easier than ever for employees to work from home. Mental health concerns like stress, anxiety and depression are the third highest cause for workplace absence in the UK, If you can, consider remote working to help staff build a schedule that works for them. Under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) employers must be open to negotiating special leave when an employee's unique health circumstances require it. That means being flexible around things like time off for appointments.
  • Reasonable adjustments: This could be changes to the working environment like ramps or well-planned office space. Or it could be computer software or equipment (like ergonomic keyboards) that help an employee to do their job as well as they can. It’s making sensible, practical decisions like allowing someone with social anxiety disorder to have their own desk instead of hot-desking.

Support for employees with hidden illnesses

The key thing for inclusive employers is to respond quickly and effectively when a problem arises. It can be useful for managers to meet regularly with staff on a one-to-one to have full, frank and confidential conversations about their current situation.  You need to consider the barriers your employee has to making a quality contribution. And what you can do to mitigate that. Members of your management team need to understand and consider the needs of their workforce.

Employees need to be fully involved in decisions or planning around their arrangements. After all, only they truly understand what could make things better/easier/smarter for them. See the person. Not the problem.

We work with a host of responsible employers that support every member of their workforce to bring their whole selves to work. Search for your next job here.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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