If you are disabled like me, you know your disability will pose a challenge on any application. One challenge it poses, you may have a patchy job history because your disability causes you to leave your job or have a higher than normal sickness rate. Another challenge a disability poses, knowing how to explain it, when to bring it up, and should you bring it up. This article will present an opinion on how to manage disability throughout the application process.
What is disability as it relates to working? Definition of disability varies between each country. In the United Kingdom the definition is the Equality Act and in the United States, it is Americans with Disability Act (ADA). For the purpose of this article, disability will mean the legal definition as it is defined in your country.
CV & Cover Letter
Employers in the private sector, non-government related jobs, will typically allow you to submit a CV with a cover letter. It is important to understand the function of each. A CV provides the details of your skills and work history versus a cover letter, which acts as a guide to your CV.
Employment Gaps – CV
If there are gaps of employment on your CV, it is best to be positive, concise, and very brief and place the explanation between the two jobs. Below example shows a possible way of noting gaps on your CV.
Mary’s Bridal Boutique (May 2018 – current)
[Disability related gap]
Joe’s Corner Shop (June 2016 – September 2017)
[September 2013 – May 2016 attended university]
Mark’s Delicious Fast Food (June 2013 – August 2013)
If you work history does not have gaps, then it is best to address your disability in the cover letter.
Cover Letter – Disability
Cover letter has a structure,
- Job Title that you are applying for (e.g. RE: [Job Title and Job Reference number)
- Reason for applying
- Salary expectations
- Overview how your skills meet the role requirements
- Offer to interview
The cover letter should not be more than a page and you need to place your narrative regarding your disability in the section that discusses how your skills meets the role requirements. In a few moments, I will discuss how to write the narrative.
Employers with government contracts, government agencies, and some private sector employers will require that you submit your application online.
Each employer will have their own form and may require you to manually enter your job history. The same rule applies regarding submitting a CV.
Unlike submitting a CV with cover letter, online form varies with each employer. Most, though not always, have a section for you to demonstrate how your skills match the role being advertised. This probably the best place to provide an explanation regarding your disability by using your narrative.
Likewise, many online application forms will also have an equality or equal opportunity monitoring section. This section for government compliance and on some forms, it will ask about disability. Again, declare it here.
Developing Your Narrative
Telling your story – Narrative Example
A narrative is your story that will explain your application, including your disability. It needs to be concise, understandable, logical, positive, and provides a summary of how your disability impacts your ability to work.
For example, the narrative for someone with severe asthma applying for an office-based role may look something like:
I am currently under the care of my family doctor for the treatment of asthma. My treatment includes taking a variety of medications that will not impact my ability to do my job. However, due to my asthma, I do require time off to attend GP and specialist appointments. Furthermore, I have taken time off work to bring my asthma back under control. As a result of needing time off to manage my asthma, it has resulted in a higher than expected absence rate. I work closely with my surgery to ensure my asthma remains under control and any time off is minimal.
How to Develop Your Narrative
Developing your narrative can be done one of two ways. First, you can contact Exclusive Career Advice and we can work with you. Second option is developing a narrative on your own by telling your story. Your narrative needs to include:
- Your disability
- How your disability has impacted your job history
- How your disability currently impacts you
- How you are working to manage or overcome it.
- Anything you have learned from it.
- Does it help you to gain any insights into the job you are applying?
Less is Better
At this stage you are only applying for the job. So, there is not a need to give out a lot of detail and all you need, at this stage, is to provide a concise, accurate, and positive explanation regarding your work history. If the employer requires more, they will ask for it.
Preparation and Answering Questions
If you have declared that you have a disability and you are invited to an interview, then be prepared to answer questions regarding it. The questions most likely will regard how your disability may be impacted by the job, any support you may need, and how your disability has impacted your work history.
Your answer should be based your narrative but in an interview you have the opportunity to provide a further explanation. So, if the interview asks about why you left your job and it relates to your disability you can provide the answer something like,
As I stated on my application I suffer from severe asthma and because of my asthma, I may take time off to better manager it. In this situation, I found my asthma was not being controlled and working was not possible for me. During the time-off I met with my GP and specialist. By meeting with them and advocating my position, they were able to make medication adjustments that have helped me control my asthma. From the experience, I have learned the importance of managing my asthma and how to advocate.
To Raise Disability in an Interview
My advice, if your interviewer has not raised disability then wait until the offer before raising anything disability related.
Disability discrimination is something courts decide. To help protect yourself against less favourable treatment, make sure you keep all correspondence regarding the application and the application its.
If you feel, you have been treated less favourably because you are disabled, you need to immediately contact human resources (HR) to raise your concerns. When contact HR you should provide them with the Job Reference number, hiring manager name, department, job title, and a summary of what occurred.
Delaying contacting Human Resources may adversely impact your ability to ensure it was a fair process and impact any claim you may have. When you contact HR, they should advise you of the process, any time limits for them to complete their investigation, and any appeals process.
Depending on your location, there maybe time limits to file with the appropriate government body or court. The time limits may or may not start, after you have exhausted the Human Resources route. This will mean, at some point you will need to engage a lawyer, solicitor, to help you. Also, you can file with EHRC in the UK or EEOC in the USA.
In the United Kingdom there is no legal requirement to disclose a disability. However, by not disclosing it may impact your ability to use your disability as a protected characteristic as it relates to any disciplinary or discrimination complaint you may raise. Likewise, certain fields that require a PIN, license, or certification may have ‘fitness to practice,’ rules. Where ‘fitness to practice,’ is an issue, it is this author’s belief that declaring disability is the best practice.
Exclusive Career Advice is here for you. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.