Ask LH: Should I Conceal My Injury From Potential Employers?

Hi Lifehacker, I have recently received an injury at work. I won’t go into the details but it will effectively stop me working in my current industry. It is now time for me to try cracking the IT field in Australia. I have received some great advice from some friends who work in IT already. The plan is to gain some unpaid work experience and progress from there.

My concern is how much to reveal to possible mentors/employers. I am typing up a cover letter with my motivations and desires. Do I say I am injured but can work a few hours a day? What’s the best approach? Thanks, Reboot On Other Foot

Workplace injury picture from Shutterstock

Dear ROOF,

Without knowing the nature of your injury, it’s difficult to say whether you should provide full disclosure or not. Is it physically obvious, like using a wheelchair, or something that could potentially be concealed from employers? We suppose it’s a moot point if you can only work a few hours a day; they’re going to need an explanation as to why your work hours are so limited.

The sad fact is that despite our robust anti-discrimination laws, most employers will balk at hiring somebody who has suffered a workplace injury; especially if lengthy compensation was involved. It’s simply too much of a liability. Of course they’d never admit to this, but you can safely bet that an able-bodied contender will usually get the job over someone with a lingering work injury. The fact you have no prior experience only makes their decision easier. Sometimes life sucks.

Ironically, your injury will also make it harder to score unpaid work experience. Getting fresh-faced graduates to work for free is one thing, but people with disabilities is another matter — could you imagine the outcry if the public discovered a company was “exploiting” injured workers in this way? The fact you actively volunteered for the unpaid work would do little to lessen the PR disaster that would ensue.

Subsequently, you might be better off keeping the injury close to your chest to begin with. If your ailments aren’t visible, perhaps pitch your services in terms of time/need to study rather than physical capacity. Just be mindful of outright lying as this could cause legal ramifications further down the track, especially if you suffer another workplace injury.

Basically, most employers should be flexible if they’re not paying you, so keep the explanation simple and hope for the best. Alternately, you could implore your aforementioned IT buddies to assist you in finding employment. Having someone established who is willing to vouch for you can go a long way with potential employers. Good luck!


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