How To Support Employees With Invisible Disabilities

22nd Jun 2022

What is an invisible disability?

In the UK alone, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people have a disability, with 80% of those people having an invisible disability. With over 4.4 million disabled people in the workforce, it's highly likely that you work with or employ someone who lives with a hidden disability. 

Invisible disabilities (also known as hidden or non-visible disabilities) are defined as physical, mental or neurological conditions that we can't easily notice from the outside. Some examples of invisible disabilities include learning disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia, depression and autism spectrum disorder, as well as chronic pain and fatigue. 

With a significant number of employees living with a disability, it is absolutely crucial to understand how disabilities, specifically invisible disabilities, show up in the workplace.

How to become a disability friendly employer

As an employer, here are some key steps that you can take to support your employees with invisible disabilities.

1. Educate your employees

Ensure your teams – especially management and senior leadership – understand invisible illnesses and disabilities and are equipped to support employees to thrive and meet their goals.

2. Be flexible

Offering flexible working can help staff with invisible disabilities to structure their work life around their needs.

3. Provide reasonable adjustments

Don't wait for candidates or current employees to reach out. Make it a habit to ask about all prospective candidates if they require any reasonable adjustments to succeed at an interview, and make accessibility a part of your onboarding process.

4. Offer professional support

Establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can help staff with invisible disabilities find peer-to-peer support, or even an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can help employees with disabilities navigate their disability at work.

5. Engage with employees

Be transparent and have open conversations with your staff who live with invisible disabilities and illnesses about what they need to succeed at work.

6. Have a policy

It seems simple, but having clear policies around accessibility and disability inclusion is a key step towards forging belonging for marginalised and disabled employees at work.

7. Implement feedback

It's important to ask your employees to figure out what you're doing well, and areas where you can improve.

8. Make your hiring process inclusive

Steps like offering reasonable adjustments or providing interview questions ahead of time can increase equity in the hiring process. 

9. Promote an inclusive culture

Build diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in your company or organisation's mission and values.

10. Take advantage of government resources

Government resources like Access to Work exist to support employers and employees navigate disabilities, illnesses and chronic conditions in the workplace.