Work-Life Balance

Chronic illness and work: should you discuss your condition with your employer?

Chronic-illness-and-work-should-you-discuss-your-condition-with-your-employer

If you’ve discovered that you have a chronic illness, then you have many decisions to make. Not only do you have to think about your health and family, but you also need to figure out what you want to do with your job. The first question is, do you want to tell your employer about your condition?

While there are factors that can influence your decision, it ultimately comes down to you. There are pros and cons to consider, as well as a certain approach that will help you get the best results that suit both you and your employer. Consider these factors and tips before you make the big decision.

Considerations of whether or not to tell

You need to take some time to consider certain factors that will influence your decision to tell your employer about your illness. The first is the possible public perception that you will be subjected to in both scenarios. If you don’t tell and your illness affects your job so that you cannot complete your responsibilities or you appear lethargic, then it is possible that your management could consider you to be lazy or unmotivated. On the other hand, even if you do disclose your illness only to your boss or HR, there is the chance that the information may leak, and your coworkers may still see you in a different way, and they may feel pity for you or your situation.

With that said, if your illness is affecting your work ethic and you recognize it will be pronounced, then you should consider telling your employers. The biggest reason for this is because if you don’t tell them and you perform poorly, they can terminate your employment. If you had told them and they still let you go only for that reason, you could pursue legal action for unlawful termination. However, if you don’t disclose the illness and the employer couldn’t have known, then you may not have a case.

Keep in mind that if you do disclose your illness and you are met with prejudice from your employer or bullying from employees, you cannot just stand by. If this does happen, take your case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They can offer information about what employer actions are legal or illegal, and they can start an investigation into the charges.

How to disclose your illness

If you have weighed the pros and cons and you are ready to disclose your illness, then you will want to do so properly. You don’t have to tell them every aspect of your health issues, but you should mention how it may impact your job and be honest about the facts. You may have to request particular accommodations. So, if your job has you standing all day, you might have to request a chair. Or, if you work as a machine worker, ask if there is an office position instead.

Also, think about your schedule. Are you able to continue on full-time or will you need to switch to part-time to retain the proper energy to do the job? If you know that you are going to come in late at the same time every week for chemotherapy treatments or something of that nature, then ask for that to be a part of your schedule moving forward.

Continue to follow up with your employer as time goes on. If you are notified of a last-minute medical appointment, call or email right away so management can adjust accordingly. Let them know if your condition changes and you are not able to complete even the modified tasks that you were provided. Although you do have your rights, your employer may still be making big changes to accommodate your needs, so show that same respect to them.

Coping with a chronic illness while at work

If you decide to stay at work with a chronic illness, then you will want to take care of yourself so you don’t overdo it, get sicker, and completely eliminate your chances of working. Start by prioritizing your mental health by taking a break when you are feeling overworked and being honest with your employer if you don’t have it in you that day. You should also eat healthily, especially with foods that affect your mood in a positive way with Omega-3s and vitamin D. Avoid processed and fast food, which can negatively affect your mood.

It is also important that you know your boundaries. If you feel fine at first, but over time, you feel that you cannot complete certain work, then you need to speak up. In the end, your health is the most important thing so you need the energy to not only get through the day but to have a work-life balance so you can spend quality time at home. Know your limits and get enough sleep at night so you are rested enough during the day. Doctors recommend seven to nine hours a night or more.

If it gets to be too much, and you need a rest, then you may have to consider using the benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act. With FMLA, if you meet the requirements and work for a qualifying employer, you can take unpaid medical leave or even a personal day for a serious condition without the chance of losing your job for doing so. It is an option to consider when you just need a break so you can come back and do your job to the best of your ability.

Ultimately, the choice to discuss your chronic illness with your employer is up to you. However, if you are up-front right away, work can be an easier place to be without all the secrecy.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.

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