Who do you have to tell?

November 5, 2017

You have a right to privacy when it comes to your medical information. Even if you have to take time off work, your employer does not need to know your diagnosis, and neither do your co-workers.

Of course, you will have to provide some information. If you need to take sick days or short-term leave, your doctor’s note specifying what you need should be enough. You only need to tell your employer about medical information that directly affects your ability to do your job.

Remember that people with many different physical illnesses may not choose to share that information with their union, co-workers or employers. The same is true for mental illness.

Examples of information your doctor might share:

Let’s say you have anxiety that is affecting your work. You don’t have to tell this to your employer. But you need to give them enough information to accommodate you. Your doctor could say:

  • You have a lot of fatigue and so will need a graduated return to full hours
  • You are less resilient to stress currently and so need to be relieved temporarily of some of your most stressful duties
  • You have trouble concentrating currently and so will need to temporarily work on long-term projects instead of projects with tight deadlines
  • You sometimes need a break from a noisy work environment, so you may need access to a quiet space for several times a day, when you need it

Accommodations based on this information might help you stay in your current job, and they don’t reveal your diagnosis.

What do you want to reveal?

The Canadian Mental Health Association suggests different ways you can describe a mental health challenge. You could be very general (“a medical condition”) or specific (“bipolar disorder”).

Here are some ways you can describe a mental illness:

  • Neurological problem
  • Medical condition
  • Biochemical imbalance
  • Hard time with stress
  • Mental illness
  • Psychiatric disorder
  • Psychological disability
  • Or give a specific diagnosis, like depression or PTSD.