Does your boss have to know if you’re ill?

Does your boss have to know if you’re ill?
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In general, employers have far fewer rights to ask employees about their health than we’d imagine. “A diagnosis of a condition like cancer does not generally have to be disclosed – although it’s probably going to be in your best interests to tell your employer so they can help you and give you the time you need to get treatment,” says Hannah Parsons, solicitor at the UK’s leading website for free legal advice, lawontheweb.

“What is cut and dried is that, if you’re applying for a job, you shouldn’t be asked general questions about your health that aren’t connected to very specific aspects of the job. The employer should also not ask you if you’ve taken time off work due to sickness or how many days.”

5 things you should know about your health and the workplace

  1. You are not duty-bound to reveal an illness or health issue to your employer.
  2. If you are applying for a job, your potential employer does not generally have the right to ask you about your health –unless the employer is checking whether you are able to carry out a function that is ‘intrinsic’ to the job. For example, if you’re applying to drive a bus, the employer can ask about your sight. But if you’re applying to work in an office, a very general question about your health is not relevant.
  3. If your job application is rejected on the grounds of health or a disability, the employer’s behaviour could be judged to be discriminatory.
  4. If your contract of employment specifically says you must tell your employer about any condition that affects your ability to do the job, you must tell them.
  5. If you have a medical condition that could affect the safety of your colleagues or members of the public, you should tell your employer – otherwise you may find yourself being accused of negligence. 
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