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Do I have have have to declare in recruitment? Definition of benign?

Hi, I have 2 questions for those more knowledgeable about MS please. Do I have to declare during recruitment with this question ‘Do you consider yourself to be disabled?’ on an equal opportunities monitoring form? I don’t really, and certainly not in the same league as the symptoms some of you are coping with. I know the shortlisting panel aren’t meant to see this, but HR are in another building (local authority) and the form gets sent on to them. I have had 2 relapses in 14 years (1 major but temporary, 1 less major but permanent) and am hopeful I can consider my MS benign. My other symptoms are invisible (apart from the bags under my eyes…) and barring a relapse won’t affect my ability to do the job. Realistically, no-one knows what the future holds… All responses gratefully received. Thanks. A xx

Hi A,

No, you don’t have to declare it, especially with wording as loose as “Do you consider yourself…?” There is no right or wrong answer to this, as nobody can contradict what you think about yourself. I would argue that’s exactly why it’s phrased that way, as different applicants will have very differing views about exactly what constitutes disability. One person with asthma might consider themselves disabled. Another who walks with a stick might not, even though an observer might say they were.

I think there are a very few jobs which are safety-critical, where a full declaration of your health would be essential (I can’t imagine someone could sign up as an airline pilot, or probably even a bus-driver, without disclosing that they had MS, for example).

But if you are applying for one of those jobs, it should make it perfectly clear that acceptance is subject to a satisfactory declaration of health.

For the majority of jobs, however, it’s illegal even to ask - except for monitoring purposes, or to help you (e.g. to find out if you’d need any reasonable adjustments) - and disclosure in those circumstances is voluntary.

One thing I would say, though, is that if it happens to be an organisation that actively seeks to recruit from so-called "minority or “disadvantaged” groups, it might be in your interests to mention it, so do check-out the culture of the organisation.

I think a diagnosis of “benign” MS can technically only be made retrospectively, after ten years or more without trouble, so although only two relapses in 14 years is pretty good going, I’m not sure it fully qualifies as “benign”. Without wishing to scare you, the MS doesn’t know what it’s called anyway, so even slapping a “benign” label on it doesn’t guarantee it will always stay that way.

If you decide to mention it at all, I would certainly NOT use the word “benign” in any official paperwork, as that is more of a hope than a fact. If you were unlucky, and things took a turn for the worse, the last thing you’d want is for it to be thrown in your face: “But I thought you claimed in your application it was BENIGN??!!” They might think you’d intentionally misled them.

I think either say nothing, or admit to having MS, but not “benign” MS. Sort of tempting fate…

Sorry,

Tina

Agree, you can answer no to that. It would only be if it was phrased something more like ‘are you disabled according to the disability discrimination act’, which would be yes as ms is automatically covered.

I also agree with the benign thing, when I was diagnosed it was after nearly 9 years with no relapses and the neuro (junior rather than a consultant) suggested it could be benign, I had another 18 months clear and have now had three relapses in less than two years so it is completely unpredicable.

Just seen it is local authority you are applying to, in which case I don’t think I would be concerned about declaring it, and they may be one of the types of employers who like to show they employ people from minority groups. And the interview panel will not get to see it as it gets separated from the rest of your application.

I do not think they should be asking this sort of question until they have made an offer. Sorry, that is not a helpful response, but I do not know what to suggest to you. If they do make you an offer, it is extremely likely that there will be more and less ambiguous questions about health, and so they will find out then, but that’s diffferent and lawful. Whatever you decide, I hope you get the job.

Alison

Thank you all so much for you responses. I found the question itself quite ambiguous and so am pleased I can answer honestly i.e. No as I do not consider myself to be disabled. I guess my benign thoughts are wishful thinking. I know it is completely unpredictable and don’t want to tempt fate. I have decided I will apply so fingers crossed… Thanks again, this forum is great. Full of helpful people. A x