Brittany B. on July 13, 2021
I'm in the process of onboarding at my new job. The last thing that needs to be done is a "health screening form" where they ask a lot of detailed questions about my health history. I asked the onboarding specialist who would have access to this information and he said -- "The HRM and Health Nurse/DQM at your facility, and I." Is this the right opportunity to disclose my history? I'm still in active treatment and I will need 3 days off for treatment (happy to take it unpaid) and wasn't sure if this was the time to start having that discussion? I would like as few people to know about my diagnosis and possible.
Nicole Jarvis, LMSW
Jul 13, 2021
Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:
I want to first congratulate you on your new job! Starting a new position at any time can bring about a mix of emotions, but going through active treatment certainly incites some additional, unique feelings and concerns.
Disclosure is a really common topic among cancer patients and survivors and is not a decision to take lightly. However, it’s important to understand that decisions around disclosure are very personal and often dependent on circumstances. You’re not obligated to share your diagnosis with your employer, and they are not allowed to ask.
There are a few questions I’d encourage you to consider as you mull over this decision. Are any questions on the health screening form voluntary? Do you know if every employee has to complete it? What do the HRM and Health Nurse do with this information? It seems you are working in a healthcare environment, if that is the case are there any precautions that you yourself need to take in order to stay safe in the workplace? The answers to these questions can help you better understand what is necessary and assist you in creating a path forward.
As for your treatment, if you know your set schedule now it’s a good idea to consider what your needs will be in order to receive treatment and fulfill the responsibilities of your new role. If you are uncomfortable sharing your diagnosis, which is understandable and valid, you can still request accommodations or schedule flexibility without disclosing your cancer status. This can be done by sharing only information with your employer that would explain your need for time off or flexibility (for instance, if you’re able to work remotely those days, makeup those days by working additional days or hours, etc.). You can let your employer know there are personal obligations that you need to take care of, that were in place prior to your being hired, and that you would like to collaborate on a plan that they feel comfortable with. Creating a situation in which your employer feels involved in the process, but not entirely responsible for coming up with a plan, can make a big difference in how open they are to accommodating and their level of flexibility.
We have several resources on our website that might be helpful as you map out a plan:
While the decision to disclose is still very much yours to make, the above resources will hopefully provide you with some guidance about the impact of disclosure, further considerations to take into account, and how to go about having some of these more challenging conversations.
If you have further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to provide any additional relevant resources or talk through your situation further.
Nicole Jarvis, LMSW
Senior Manager of Programs
Cancer anc Careers
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