Hidden disabilities

Defining invisible disabilities

An invisible disability is a disability that cannot be seen.

Mental health issues such as depression, stress, anxiety and bipolar can affect individuals and their families.

Physical disabilities which do not require the use of wheelchairs or crutches include lupus, ME, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. They can affect the quality of life such as permanent pain, limited mobility or extreme fatigue.

Trade unions have a role to play in fighting stigma and discrimination against people with hidden impairments, and ensuring they are treated fairly at work and have access to any reasonable adjustments that are required.

Tips for coping with a hidden disability at work

1) It is recommended you inform your line manager of your disability because you might need their support and understanding and they can make reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustments are a key part of the Disability Discrimination Act.

2) Tell your union rep about your hidden disability and talk to them if you feel there is a problem at work or if you are worried about taking time off.

3) It is up to you whether you inform work colleagues or not. Telling a few close colleagues about your hidden disability could lead to creating a supportive work environment around yourself. Perhaps wait until you feel comfortable to do so.

4) It is also recommended you tell any union or work first aiders that you have a disability. Every workplace should have a trained first-aider or a person appointed to take charge of first aid arrangements, such as calling the emergency services if necessary.

The TUC in Wales has produced a comprehensive guide called Disability and “hidden” impairments in the workplace.  It also includes a list of helpful websites and resources.

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