Difference between temporary vs. permanent disability when looking for a job

Last updated: July 20, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Difference between temporary vs. permanent disability when looking for a job
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In 2022, 21.3% of people with disabilities were employed in the United States. While a disability, whether temporary or permanent, can make the process of finding a job somewhat more challenging, it doesn’t have to.

Taking the right approach and disclosing your disability can be beneficial in some instances and even help you land the job.

In this article, we’ll discuss what the law says about disability and how it affects getting hired. We’ll also list the advantages and disadvantages of disclosing your disability and the best time to do so during the job search process.

What is a temporary disability?

Temporary disability, or short-term disability, is a personal injury, ailment, or disability that affects your work for a short period — usually a couple of weeks to months.

The initial injury may be healed with the help of medical services, such as a conventional retraining plan that helps you regain your mental function or physical mobility.

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Examples of temporary disabilities include the following:

  • A broken limb, such as a fractured leg that makes it hard for you to move without assistance from a cane or wheelchair.

  • A concussion that makes it difficult to concentrate for long periods at a time.

  • A back injury that makes it dangerous for you to carry heavy objects.

  • Recovery from surgery, such as an eye surgery that makes it difficult to read.

What is a permanent disability?

A permanent disability is a sickness or disability that’s lasting. It’s reached maximum medical improvement and is the “best it will ever get.” A permanent disability can sometimes affect a person’s ability to earn a living since it limits them in some way.

Permanent disabilities can be physical or mental. Here are some examples:

  • Head injury, stroke, or brain injury that restricts everyday activities.

  • Intellectual disabilities that make it difficult to learn or understand things.

  • Sensory disabilities, such as loss of sight, loss of hearing where communication is restricted, or speech difficulties.

  • Body impairments, such as breathing difficulties, seizures or loss of consciousness, incomplete use of legs or arms, or disfigurement or deformity.

  • Psychosocial disabilities, including nervous or emotional conditions, mental impairments requiring supervision, or memory problems.

Should a disability affect your potential to get a job?

If you’re qualified to do the job and have the necessary educational level, your disability should be irrelevant. Let’s look at what the law says:

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against qualified people with disabilities.

This includes physical disabilities, such as loss of leg function or hearing impairment, and mental disabilities, such as emotional conditions.

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The law also requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for these employees.

However, there’s one main reason a potential employer is legally allowed to ask about a disability:

  • To determine whether you can carry out essential tasks. For example, if you’re applying for a receptionist position, you must have proper speech abilities since you’ll talk to clients over the phone daily.

Additionally, employers must pay disabled employees the same weekly wage as they would a non-disabled person in the same position.

Despite laws being in place to prevent discrimination, it does still occur. So be sure to carefully consider whether you want to disclose your disability. More on this below.

When you have a temporary disability that prevents you from performing a specific job, you must disclose this to the employer since this will directly impact your career.

That way, employers can choose to either hire you now and give you other jobs for the time being or hire you later.

For example, if you’re a warehouse associate and your leg is broken, your employer could ask you to pack and seal boxes during the time it takes your leg to heal, as opposed to lifting heavy objects.

Legally, the ADA doesn’t require a candidate with a permanent mental or physical disability to disclose their impairment to employers. However, employers aren’t legally obligated to make accommodations if the candidate doesn’t disclose this.

It ultimately comes down to what works best for you.

To help you decide on whether to disclose your permanent disability, we’ve created lists of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.

Advantages of disclosing your permanent disability

While the law doesn’t require you to mention your disability to potential employers, some advantages of doing so exist.

You’ll be entitled to accommodations

The recruiter can put reasonable adjustments in place. This is especially true if you need these accommodations to make performing your job easier. For example, if you’re in a wheelchair, you might require a wheelchair-friendly desk.

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Again, if you don’t disclose this information to the employer, they aren’t legally obligated to make these adjustments once you start working for them.

Use your disability as a strength

In some cases, your disability may give you advantages over non-disabled employees that you can leverage to push you further in your career. For example, if a company is contributing to a charity focused on disability, they might look for job candidates who are invested in their mission.

You can explain any career gaps on your resume

If you’ve had a career break due to your disability, you might want to explain the reason for this with a brief but honest explanation rather than keeping the gap blank. By not filling the gap, the recruiter will likely draw conclusions — thinking, for instance, that you were too lazy to work during that time.

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If you choose to disclose your disability to explain the gap in your resume, make it clear that you’re a reliable employee who doesn’t make a habit of taking long absences from work.

Disadvantages of disclosing your permanent disability

Here are some of the possible disadvantages of disclosing your disability to potential employers:

You might leave yourself open to discrimination

Despite the law and its anti-discrimination provisions, discrimination still exists. Some employers may consciously or unconsciously look differently at your application when they’re aware of your disability — which could hurt your chances of getting a job you’ve set your heart on.

That being said, if the employer chooses to discriminate against you (and somehow manages to get away with it), ask yourself if you would’ve enjoyed working for someone like that in the first place. Probably not.

You might give the wrong first impression

By disclosing your disability right from the start, you risk giving a first impression of being a “disabled person” rather than a “competent professional.”

That’s why, if your disability doesn’t require any adjustments, it might be best to wait. That way, you’ll be judged purely on your merits instead of your disability.

You might not want to disclose it

A disability can be very personal to share with someone you don’t know. So, if you feel uncomfortable disclosing yours to a stranger, don’t feel pressured.

This is especially true if you can do your work without any adjustments. In this case, no one needs to know about your impairment ahead of time.

When is the best time to disclose your disability?

If you decide to disclose your disability, you’re probably wondering when’s the best time.

If you have a temporary disability, it’s best to disclose it before the interview so your potential employer is aware of it during the interview.

As for a permanent disability, you have three options:

  • Before the interview: If you have a physical disability, it might be best to disclose it before the interview — either on your resume or during your initial phone interview. That way, the discussion will focus on your experience, skills, and qualifications. Remember to highlight all your soft and hard skills on your resume as much as possible so they’re the main attraction.

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  • During the interview: Interviewers aren’t allowed to legally bring up your disability during an interview (unless it means you won’t be able to perform essential tasks). So, if you think the recruiter may be wondering about your impairment and how they’ll have to adjust your responsibilities, addressing those concerns head-on can be helpful. After all, employers are eager to hire adaptive employees who work hard to succeed despite their personal circumstances.

  • After the interview: If you’ve landed the job, congratulations! If you need adjustments and haven’t mentioned your disability to your employer, now’s a good time. Otherwise, your employer will have no obligation to make any adjustments once you join the company.

Start your job search today

If you’re qualified and able to do the work, your disability shouldn’t impact your employability. You can start searching for a job on Jobcase today.

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Go to the job board and type in the position you’re looking for alongside your desired location. From there, you’ll get a list of possible jobs you can sift through to find one that matches your needs and career goals.

Do you have more questions about searching for a job, interviews, and getting hired? Head over to our Getting Hired Resource Center.

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