How to support employees with invisible disabilities

How to support employees with invisible disabilities


  • Date: Wednesday 26th May 2021
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People with invisible disabilities can find it difficult to be open about their health situation often because the effects on their life are not easy to understand nor is the condition outwardly visible. Employees with disabilities have the right to reasonable adjustments to help them manage their condition but such employees may feel that they cannot be open about their needs.

There are many invisible disabilities to be aware of such as autism, epilepsy, mental health conditions, crohn’s and colitis. The latter two conditions cause ulcers and inflammation in the stomach but with no cure and employees with these conditions have found ways to mask them from their employers. But crohn’s and colitis can impact an employee’s mental health, relationships, many parts of their body and lead to life altering surgery.

What can employers do?

1.       Make the workplace inclusive

Employers need to evaluate how inclusive their workplaces really are and ensure they have an approach that will acknowledge, shows understanding and supports employees living with invisible conditions. To improve inclusivity, employers can develop awareness amongst all employees and provide tools to managers supporting those with invisible disabilities. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from the workforce and ask: “what can we do better that will make our workplaces more inclusive?”

2.       Re-evaluate current adjustments

As employees return to the workplace following Covid-19, there is an opportunity to assess if the reasonable adjustments already in place are working or if amendments are needed. In particular, consider employees who have transitioned to working from home over the last 15 months and have invisible conditions. They will have been able to self-manage their health and had increased flexibility to attend medical appointments and treatments. For some employees a return to the pre-Covid workplace may feel like a backward step so do talk to this employee group now to understand what support they need in the future.

3.       Flexible and remote working options

Employers can consider remote and flexible working options to help the health and wellbeing of employees with invisible disabilities – if this is what the employee wants.

Employers have a great opportunity to reassess the inclusivity of their workplace and to put in place supportive approaches to build their reputation and provide solutions for employees.

Remember, research repeatedly shows us that employers who recognise the needs of their team members with invisible conditions can improve the productivity of their workforce, reduce staff turnover and achieve higher levels of employee satisfaction and wellbeing.

Additional information and employer resources relating to invisible disabilities are available on the ‘Are You In?’ campaign website by clicking here.

Source: Manuela Grossmann


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