Does your boss have the right to know you’re ill?

Recent high profile cases have thrown a spotlight on the question of how much you have to tell your employer about your health. But employers have fewer rights that we might imagine.

The fatal accident involving a refuse lorry in Glasgow has thrown a spotlight on the health of the truck’s driver and whether or not he concealed medical problems from his employer including blacking out. This raises the question of whether or not you have to tell your employer if you are suffering from a medical condition or illness.

According to lawyers working for the UK’s leading online site for free legal advice, the answer is that bosses have far fewer rights to know about our health than we might imagine.

Based on their experience, the employment law team at has compiled a list of the top five things an employee should know about their health and the workplace:

  1. You are not duty-bound to reveal an illness or health issue to your employer.
  2. If you are applying for a job, your potential employer does not generally have the right to ask you about your health –unless the employer is checking whether you are able to carry out a function that is ‘intrinsic’ to the job. For example, if you’re applying to drive a bus, the employer can ask about your sight. But if you’re applying to work in an office, a very general question about your health is not relevant.
  3. If your job application is rejected on the grounds of health or a disability, the employer’s behaviour could be judged to be discriminatory.
  4. If your contract of employment specifically says you must tell your employer about any condition that affects your ability to do the job, you must tell them.
  5. If you have a medical condition that could affect the safety of your colleagues or members of the public, you should tell your employer – otherwise you may find yourself being accused of negligence. is the leading provider of legal information and legal assistance to millions of UK visitors. Its Instant Law Line team handles thousands of legal queries every year about the workplace

Hannah Parsons, solicitor and spokesperson for said: “In general, employers have far fewer rights to ask employees about their health than many people would imagine. A diagnosis of a condition like cancer does not generally have to be disclosed – although it’s probably going to be in your best interests to tell your employer so they can help you and give you the time you need to get treatment.

“What is cut and dried is that, if you’re applying for a job, you shouldn’t be asked general questions about your health that aren’t connected to very specific aspects of the job. The employer should also not ask you if you’ve taken time off work due to sickness or how many days.”