Does Your Employer Know About Your Asthma?
For me, it’s not really hard for an employer to find out I have asthma. Never mind googling me, one look at my resume and you can pretty quickly put together the pieces that I likely have asthma given my volunteer (and brief contract) work with the Asthma Society of Canada. This wasn’t always the case, so opting whether or not to disclose my asthma diagnosis to my employer was a question that I had to answer.
Pros and cons of disclosing asthma at work
There is no wrong answer when it comes to disclosing your asthma to an employer. When I was in positions where I felt like more up-front disclosure was important (ie. daycare), I made that happen in the job offer interview as was the case in my first job. By my second daycare job, I had the Asthma Society stuff on my resume, so it became a bit of a natural part of the conversation. When I worked for a provincial sport organization, I was recommended by a friend (who became my boss) so he was aware of my asthma from our escapades at the gym. When I worked at a sports camp for kids with autism for a week, I did not disclose my asthma.
There are benefits and risks to both disclosure and not disclosing. To me, I think the only risk I see for disclosure is that if people are uneducated and see asthma as a liability. Of course, asthma is common enough that people don’t often see this as a detriment and understand that generally, asthma is well-managed (which, even if your asthma is not, this can work to your advantage, I guess!). People may not know everything about asthma, however, they often understand the basics which means that while you may need to answer questions, people generally understand asthma. In a daycare setting, my asthma was actually somewhat of a benefit, as no only was caring for our several kids with asthma second-nature to me when they needed it (which was fortunately rarely!), I could also level with the kids in a way that the other staff couldn’t. (Fire safety truck where we all had to leave before the fake smoke happened?) Yeah, we were all standing outside laughing as everybody else climbed out the window, cheering and calling ourselves team asthma.
My personal experience
I’ve never really experienced any work issues because of asthma. I think my opting to disclose on a case-by-case basis (or, via my resume, I guess!) has worked well for me because it is truly based on the nature of the position whether or not it is relevant people know about my asthma. After all, while most of my freelancing clients actually hire me because of my asthma, well, it’s not crucial to my safety at work that they know, because I’m my own boss and control my own work environment and schedule ;). My other employer is the provincial government, and I work in my client’s home on a weekly basis as a disability support provider. My asthma was relevant here, but it only came up as I was asked if I needed/preferred a smoke-free work environment (otherwise they ask families to refrain from smoking for an hour prior to the support worker’s visit), as well as in regard to if support workers have allergies to pets since they are entering family homes.
Of course, most of us choose jobs we know will fit with our skills, abilities, and health needs. But sometimes, especially in the cases of occupational asthma or asthma that is diagnosed while you have a job, these things are not always as straightforward.
Do you disclose your asthma to your employer? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!
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