Self Employed: Disclosing Your Health Condition
You do not have to tell anybody about your health condition unless you could cause them serious harm by not telling. You may wish to disclose, but you do not have to.
Keep in mind that the greater the secret, the greater the stress which accompanies keeping a secret. (For tips on dealing with stress, click here.)
If you do decide to tell:
- It is advisable not to be misleading. There could even be legal ramifications for being misleading.
- Prepare what and when to tell, as well as for peoples' reactions.
We provide guidelines that may help.
Disclosing Your Health Condition To Clients/Customers
If you haven't already told your clients about your health condition, you face the questions: who to tell, what to tell, and when. The following guidelines may help.
- A decision not to tell today can be reconsidered tomorrow.
- It may help to answer the question: "Why tell?" You can ask this question in general or with respect to each specific client. Understand that keeping a secret, particularly a big secret, can be very stressful (and stress reduces the immune system).
- Consider what you know about each client/customer
- Have you seen the client/customer react to anyone else who was diagnosed with a serious health condition? How did they handle the news?
- Do they normally react with compassion or a strictly business-like point of view such as how your situation will or could affect their business and/or personal situation
- You can release the pressure to make immediate decisions such as which clients to tell, if any, and what to tell them, by letting them know that you will be out of pocket for a few days. For example, because a project unexpectedly needs your full, immediate attention for the next _________ (fill in the blank: days, weeks). If it is evident you are sick, any illness can be covered by making up a less threatening diagnosis, such as you have pneumonia. We don't condone lying. However, we're only talking about giving yourself enough time to think things through.
- If you decide to tell on a "need to know" basis (such as when your condition is likely to interfere with your work flow), keep in mind that people talk. It may be better to disclose your condition with the words and spin you want to convey rather than let someone else convey your story in an exaggerated manner.
- People don't need to know all the details about your health condition. They may only need to know when you will be able to do their work.
If you do decide to disclose your condition:
- Practice telling in a manner that conveys confidence and continuing competence. Show a positive, "I can do it" attitude. Reassure your client/customer that the work will be done on a timely basis, or even give a specific date if necessary. Of course, do everything you can to meet deadlines. If you find you can't meet the deadline, let the client know ahead of time - with the same "can do" attitude.
- Let your client/customers know that a plan is in place to complete their work on a timely basis in case you become temporarily unable to.
- Experience indicates that it is advisable to keep the telling on a business-like basis - no matter how friendly you've become. Talk about how your diagnosis will affect (or preferably not affect) your ongoing ability to do the job they need. Again, let them know that a plan is in place in case you are personally unable to continue the work.
- What "could" happen is scary and isn't relevant.
- If you have fears about the future of your health, keep them to yourself. We're talking about a business relationship no matter how close you and the customer/client have become.
- Be prepared for all kinds of reactions. Hopefully your client/customer's reaction will be purely business: as long as you're able to fulfill their needs, there will be no problem. However, be patient and understanding of their emotional reaction. Be prepared to explain how the person's interests and work will still be accomplished with your usual quality and in a timely manner. These factors are discussed further in Telling Family and Friends.
Disclosing Your Health Condition To Lenders And/Or Investors
Lenders: You do not have to disclose your health condition to a lender - and a commercial lender is not allowed to ask about your health condition or even to consider it when deciding whether to make a loan. If the lender requires health insurance as a condition for granting the loan, the lender may learn about your condition if you apply for the insurance through the application process if the bank is involved. Perhaps you can obtain life insurance on your own, or as a member of a group or association.
Investors:Yyou may have to disclose your health condition to investors. As a self employed person, it is likely that your health condition is material to the potential success of the business. If it is, it has to be disclosed. For a disccussion concerning disclosing, see the section above about disclosing to clients/customers. Consult a lawyer about your particular situation if there is the least bit of question.
Lenders or Investors Who Are Friends Or Family Members: If the lender or investor is a friend or family, consider disclosing your health condition even if it is not material to your continuing success. How would you feel if one of them not only didn't tell you about the diagnosis, but then asked you for money for a new business? To learn more about asking friends and family for money, see: How to Ask Family or Friends for Money.
NOTE: For information about handling your workload as a self employed person, click here.