I have arthritis on my body, thus, it can appear, getting worse, even very hard to walk and need to see doctor out of sudden.

Is it a must for an employee to tell the truth of his illness to company, or at least, to his boss? I feel it as a disgrace, thus, I don't want to tell my company/boss, at least until now.

What could be the effect of telling this truth? Is there a case where employee is fired because of his illness (please exclude dangerous contagious disease, such as AIDS, hepatitis, etc)?

  • 6
    What country is this? If you are in the US, if the condition is serious enough for you to be considered disabled, you have certain rights, and the employer can be required to make accommodations for you.
    – Herb
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 6:22
  • 5
    @HerbWolfe Not always, which is why this question can't realistically be answered. So much depends on the employer, location and how the employer has treated people with a chronic illness in the past.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 7:31
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 12:02

4 Answers 4


Answers have been made already but I feel the need to answer.

First of all, check the laws in your country and the rules in your company, big companies should have all available documents concerning rules and regulations online for their employees to look at. If you don't find anything that will give you a clear answer you should ask someone in your union (assuming you're in one) about how you should approach this. You could even go as far as asking a lawyer. If you and the people you ask for help find no evidence of you needing to speak up about your illnesses then you should be clear.

However, the most important thing is whether you lied or not when you were hired. If you were asked if you had an illness like this and you lied it might be important to speak up and simply state that you were embarrassed or simply didn't want to feel pity from your coworkers or your boss. However, I'd only do this if your research indicates that you are suppose to tell in this situation or if you were actually asked when hired.

Where I'm from people just tell their boss that they have to go to the doctor, that's it. It might very well simply be the case for you, if the visits become a regular thing and your employer asks, decide based on your research whether you should answer that question, and even consider it if you think it will make things easier for you and your employer in the future.

It might be for the best to tell your boss if you're started to need more regular doctor appointments or if you know you'll soon need to get more time off work due to longer visits to the hospital. Even if it's not mandatory, you simply have to evaluate examples of others who have done so, how your company handles illnesses of employers, your status and so on. Simply try to make the most informed decision and avoid lying. It doesn't mean you have to say the whole truth, simply saying that you have a non-transmittable-decease that you need medical help with should be enough to get understanding, especially if doctors can give you proof that you are indeed their patient. I understand if you don't even want to go there, but there's a limit on how much space an employer can give you before asking questions and making assumptions that you don't want them to make.

tl;dr do some research, get help from someone who knows how this is suppose to be handled in your country/location, e.g. someone from your union or a lawyer, and make an informed decision.

Good luck.


It depends a bit on where you are. In many places you can be fired with no reason given. And elsewhere people do get fired for having personal issues although that might not be the reason given.

Usually you are asked about health issues when you apply for a job, if you lied at that time, then that in itself is sufficient reason to fire you I would think. Dishonesty is usually frowned upon.

  • 1
    In Netherlands I never have been asked about my health. The employer may not ask about details if your sick. (Only (company)doctor may). The employer may ask workrelated questions about a sickness: for example shift planning.
    – RvdK
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 8:12
  • @RvdK an employee in the Netherlands expects you to tell him all diseases of importance for example if you have diabetics that you carry an Syringe(s), that Syringe marks on you are because of that. Things like you are more susceptible to catching an cold is irrelevant. Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 8:27
  • It's pretty normal to ask for a list of any medical conditions as part of the application in places I have worked. Or to at least have some sort of health question.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 8:49

Yes, you should tell at least your boss that you have arthritis.

When it does appear your boss knows it happened and is out of your control.
I would not appreciate it if you sprung it on me, that you need to go to the doctor when you knew this could happen.

Legally you can get fired for hiding the fact that you have an illness that can affect your work performance.

Why is this a disgrace?
You aren't doing something you can change like an bad habit or you blew of your arm with fireworks. You have an illness that can happen to everyone and that should not be something to be disgraced about.

This is also not accounting for the fact that you yourself stated that you require medical help when it does appear.


Medical privacy can be a knotty issue. As long as it doesn't impact work, you can and likely should keep it private.

If you need an accommodation (such as the ability to go chemotherapy or dialysis on a particular schedule or special equipment), then you must tell your employer in order to get the accommodation. In general, they do not need to know the details but have something in writing from the doctor explaining the necessary accommodation.

In practice, I have found it is easier for everybody if you are up front about the illness unless it is something that might cause people to shun you like AIDS. That still doesn't mean you have to disclose all the details. But knowing you have arthritis or cancer of depression might make them think about things they ask you to do without having to make a formal accommodation every time. Illnesses viewed as more serious tend to get more sympathy and people go out of their way to make sure you can continue to work as long as possible.

However, I have also twice seen people who got fired for having a serious illness - once when she was no longer able to work at all and had run out of disability and once where the managers deliberately assigned work to her that they knew she could not do and then fired her for performance reasons. The first was unfortunate but at least understandable, they needed to hire a replacement and it was clear she was not going to be able to go back to work (she died a couple of months later). The second was inexcusable.

I have seen far more people successfully get accommodations though, but it is a risk to disclose. It is just that the risk of not disclosing is often far greater than the risk of disclosing.

Many people make the disclosure directly to HR and their boss is only told that there is an accommodation being made. Whoever you tell about the illness is generally obligated not to pass around your personal medical history to people who do not need to know without your written consent. However, if you know you boss is a gossip, it might be best to deal directly with HR.

The grey area is an illness that might at some point affect work, but currently does not. Most people prefer to keep this private, but be aware that you are likely to have more trouble for not disclosing if it causes a work problem and they didn't know about it in advance. It is harder to get people to retroactively accommodate after something serious has happened and you could get fired in many places before you could bring up that you need an accommodation. It might be harder to get time off for necessary medical treatments if you don't tell them you are going to the doctor. So it is a judgement call. If you feel like things are getting worse, it might be worth it to bring up the issue proactively.

And of course some things are noticeable whether you disclose or not. It is hard not to notice that someone is deaf for instance. If people are going to know anyway, disclosing is generally to your advantage.

As far as being ashamed, there is no reason for shame in having an illness. Pretty much every person will get an illness at some point in their life unless they die young from a non-illness related death.

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