How should I present time off work for injury or illness on my CV?
According to the health and safety executive, over 28 million working days were lost due to illness or injury last year.
No recruiter expects you to list every sick day you ever took in your CV, but how should you approach longer absences? How do you explain that ill-health forced you to leave a job?
This article looks at how to present health-related gaps on your CV in the best possible light.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must not discriminate against workers or job applicants on the basis of any ‘protected characteristics’. Protected characteristics include race, age, religion and disability. The law also protects workers from having to reveal a disability on their CV.
Many job seekers with a disability choose to disclose this information anyway, to give recruiters a more complete picture and to ensure reasonable accommodations can be made where appropriate.
Do I have to give details of an injury or illness on my CV?
You do not have to disclose any illness or injury on your CV, whether ongoing or historic. That said, unexplained gaps will raise questions.
If there are many applicants for a position, recruiters will be looking for easy ways to remove CVs from the pile. However unreasonable this seems, a potential employer might eye a lengthy gap on your CV with just enough suspicion to mean you don’t make the cut.
If you have a gap of a few months or more on your CV due to illness or injury, there are ways you can explain the time off work in a favourable light. This approach could strengthen your application and present you as a more rounded person.
How do I include health-related absences in my CV?
Aside from outright deception, there are four ways to handle time off for ill health on a CV. You could:
- Leave a gap.
- Hide the gap, e.g. by setting out your employment history using only years, not months and years.
- Mention the ill health in very general terms, e.g. “Due to a serious injury, I was unable to work during this period”.
- Be upfront, give details and spin what happened to address any concerns and emphasise positive traits.
Of the four options, the last choice gives you the best chance to ensure a recruiter clearly understands what happened and evaluates your application appropriately.
You could list your time off in the same way you have listed the jobs in your employment history. For example:
Recovery following serious injury – Nov 2018 to March 2019 – I was unable to work for several months following an accident at work. During my recovery, I focused on developing my skill set and took an online course in sales management.
Do I have to say if the injury happened at work?
You don’t have to explain the cause of an illness or injury on your CV, and most employers will not press for details.
If you do not volunteer more information, however, an experienced recruiter will still have unanswered questions in their head, even if they don’t ask them.
Some employers may view an unexplained illness or injury with suspicion, and may unfairly judge you as reckless or prone to ill health.
What if I made a claim for compensation?
If your accident did happen at work, a potential employer should not ask whether you took legal action against the company. It is your right as an injured worker to make a claim for compensation.
Chris Salmon, Director of Quittance Legal Services, said, “Good recruiters will be aware that if someone cannot work during their recovery they may have no choice but to claim.”
“Mentioning the claim in your CV is probably not necessary, but you should prepare an answer in case it comes up during your interview. This gives you another opportunity to ‘control the narrative’ and sell your experience in positive terms.”
You could talk about how supportive the company was, and how determined you were to recover.
How do I address an ongoing health condition or ongoing symptoms?
If you have not yet fully recovered, or you have ongoing health issues, you do not have to disclose this to an employer or recruiter.
As above, you might want to disclose any health issues anyway. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to a role or workplace to accommodate employees affected by a disability or health condition.
Discussing your situation during an interview gives you the chance to put the recruiter’s mind at ease. Most adjustments will be minor, where required at all. By taking ownership of the information, you also have another chance to demonstrate that you are an honest, practically-minded person.
I am uncomfortable talking about what happened – what do I do?
Despite the advice above, you have every right to avoid discussing your illness or injury if you choose.
Whatever the reason, if you do not want to talk about your past or current health at an interview, you could send an email stating this to the recruiter or their company’s HR department.
Taking this proactive action will enable you to focus on preparing to ace the interview rather than worrying about addressing a painful experience. An employer should also be impressed that you had the foresight to address your concerns before the interview.
Although you may be tempted to omit certain details, it is very important that you consider how an employer might react if they discover something material. Many employers will review an applicant’s social media profiles, and will follow up on references. Hoping to ‘get away with it’ is not a good strategy.
If your new employer thinks you were dishonest, you could have a job offer withdrawn. Even if they don’t withdraw the position, you may find yourself starting the new role under a cloud.
When it comes to injury, illness or disability, the safest course of action is usually to be honest and transparent. Your honesty will be reflected in how your future employer judges your whole CV. Your application will stand out as that of a real, well-rounded person, not just another list of qualifications and job titles.
Chris Salmon – Operations Director of Quittance Legal Services
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