hidden illnesses

A hidden illness or disease is what it says. An illness that cannot be immediately seen or identified. But still, these illnesses, disabilities, or diseases can impact a person’s life, including in their social life and at home. 

In fact, 96% of illnesses are invisible, and you would not be aware of them until the person tells you. However, those who have disabilities and illnesses can feel as though there is a stigma toward them or a lack of understanding. This can mean individuals do not share how their illness affects them, or they shy away from employment altogether. 


Hidden illnesses and diseases can include:


  • ADHD
  • Auditory disabilities 
  • Autism 
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Crohn’s disease 
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Depressions 
  • Diabetes
  • Dyslexia
  • Epilepsy 
  • HIV/ AIDS 
  • Lupus 
  • Visual disabilities 


The impact of hidden disabilities in the workplace 


When people are unable to physically see illness or disabilities, there is more space for misunderstanding and even judgment because of a lack of knowledge. Which could cause friction between employees, and lead those who are suffering to become unhappy at work, and even feel discriminated against. 


Hidden illness/ disabilities and their misunderstandings:


  • Someone with auditory issues may be perceived as rude or that they ignore others, when in fact they cannot hear them 
  • Someone with autism may communicate differently with their peers and may have less understanding of sensitive issues or situations 
  • Someone with cystic fibrosis may need more time off than others and may be perceived as ‘always being ill’ compared to someone who does not have an illness 


How to support employees in the workplace with hidden illnesses or disabilities 


Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments to support and accommodate employees with disabilities. Making changes that support individuals can not only help them to deal with their illness but also, can make them feel more comfortable in terms of being honest and open about their experiences and problems. 


  • Provide training. Ensuring that all employees understand that illness can be invisible. Furthermore, how to communicate with others, and be aware of comments or jokes and how these can have negative effects. 


  • Hear requests and be active in implementing. Certain requests may not seem so obvious, but for someone with a hidden illness, it could make being an effective member of the workplace easier. Once you have received a request, be proactive. Avoid leaving this request for weeks, if it is a reasonable adjustment, then implement this. But if not, then discuss with the individual what changes can be made which can help. 


  • Get everyone involved. Alongside training, you could ask for suggestions from the wider team, set up fundraising events that raise awareness and money for hidden illness charities, or simply display signs around the building which raise awareness. 


Contact Us 

For more information on how you can support employees with hidden illnesses through management referrals or for information on our well-being audit, get in touch with our team of experts. Call us on 01260 277797 or email us at website@acornoh.co.uk

Want to know more about the Occupational Health services we provide at Acorn, and how they could benefit your business and your employees? Please get in touch.