Over two-thirds (67%) of employees with invisible disabilities believe it is up to them to get the support and reasonable adjustments that they need at work.
This is according to new data released by INvolve to mark the release of the first Enable Role Model List for disability, neurodiversity and mental health.
Over half (58%) feel those with invisible disabilities are not prioritised as much as those with other conditions, and half say the difficulty of the process to get the support they need at work is not worth it.
And with businesses across the UK looking to make savings where they can amid a turbulent economic climate, 38 percent say budget cuts have meant they are not getting the support they need at work.
The impact of invisible disabilities at work
The research found that many with invisible disabilities are facing daily struggles in their job roles. Almost a quarter (24%) are unable to cope with their workload, and 28 percent say their disability contributes to an inability to concentrate at work.
Aside from the impact on their role, those with invisible disabilities also cite negative effects on their wider workplace experience. A third (32%) say their disability contributes to stress at work – this increases to over half (51%) of those with mental health conditions, and 46 percent for those with cognitive impairments such as a traumatic brain injury or learning disability. One in five (20%) say they feel lonely or isolated at work because of their disability, with 17 percent experiencing poor relationships with colleagues or managers. A quarter say their invisible disability has resulted in a lack of enjoyment of their work, and significantly, a fifth (19%) say
it is contributing to them wanting to leave their job. With rates of employment for those with disabilities already far lower than the general population, a notable area of focus for the UK Government in the Spring Budget, clearly more is to be done to retain people with invisible disabilities in work.
To disclose or not to disclose?
The research found that 37 percent of employees with invisible disabilities have not disclosed their disability at work. For those with conditions that are seemingly easier to ‘mask’, this only increases.
Also, 62 percent with autism, 56 percent with mental health conditions, 54 percent with non-visible health conditions have kept their disability secret. Conversely, those with conditions that are more noticeable are more likely to disclose: 65 percent with hearing loss and 61 percent with cognitive impairments have informed their workplace. The presence of this divide even within those who have invisible disabilities demonstrates the impact of ‘masking’ – those who do not disclose their disability likely aren’t receiving the support and adjustments they need to thrive at work.
On some of the reasons why they have not disclosed their invisible disability, a third (32%) claim they do not want to be deemed less capable than their colleagues, and almost one in three (29%) are concerned about being negatively discriminated against. A quarter (25%) do not believe that disclosing their disability will result in any improvements for them. The burden of having to explain their disability time and again is also clear: a fifth (21%) do not want to have to repeatedly tell people about their condition.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.