Telling People About Your Disability & Any Concerns About Discrimination

How open you are about your SMA is a personal decision. People often worry about discrimination, prejudice or lack of confidentiality. If you do decide to be open, most employers will be unfamiliar with SMA, so they may need you to start at the beginning and explain in detail its impact on you and your work and what this means in terms of your individual needs. You’re the expert on your condition, what you can and can’t do, and what works best for you.
 
Sharing this information can be helpful. Advantages could include:

  • Some employers are keen to employ disabled people
  • It could provide an opportunity to talk about yourself positively
  • Adjustments can be put into place earlier
  • You might build a better working relationship
  • You can explain any aspects of your CV that might otherwise count against you such as gaps in your education or work history due to periods of ill health

The Equality Act 2010 covers the whole of the UK. It makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against disabled people. It also requires them to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to prevent disabled people being placed at a disadvantage. The costs of this shouldn’t be a problem because of the ‘Access to Work Scheme’ run by JobCentre Plus. This can help pay for:

  • Communication support at interviews
  • Special aids and equipment
  • Personal Assistants at work
  • Travel to work, which can include taxi fares

In practice, it may mean things like making physical changes to an office or allowing flexible working. 

For more information on the Act, see the Disability Rights UK Factsheet F56, ‘Understanding the equality act: information for disabled students’: www.disabilityrightsuk.org/understanding-equality-act-information-disabled-students (although written primarily for students, this sheet also covers employment.)

You don’t have to tell an employer about your SMA unless you’re asked direct questions about your health on a medical questionnaire. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers can’t ask candidates questions about their health that are unrelated to their job role. The main benefit of telling an employer is that it gives you more protection under the Equality Act if you have a dispute at work. 

If your employer needs specific medical information to support you at work, your specialist consultant, regional care advisor or SMA UK Support Services may be able to write a letter on your behalf. 

If you work in England, Scotland or Wales and feel that because of your disability you’ve been discriminated against either in your job, or in getting a job, you can seek advice from the Equality Advisory and Support Service on 0808 800 0082 or through their website: www.equalityadvisoryservice.com

In England, the Government has a pay and work rights helpline, run by Acas:
Tel: 0300 123 1100 Monday to Friday 8am-6pm 
www.gov.uk/pay-and-work-rights

In Northern Ireland, you can contact the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on 0289 024 3987 or visit:
www.nihrc.org/advice-for-you/disability

Page last updated: July 2019