by Guest Author, Frankie Wallace
Health challenges can happen to anyone. In fact, if you live long enough, they’re all but
guaranteed. And, they can strike at any time, even in the midst of your prime working years.
When this happens, you may find yourself left with little choice but to take a medical leave.
Once you’ve recovered, however, and you’re ready to return to work, you can also find yourself faced with a dilemma — how to address the resulting employment gap in your resume. You may wonder whether you should address it at all.
This article examines the pros and cons of disclosing a medical leave in your resume and
describes the most effective strategies for doing so, should you determine that disclosure is the best approach for you.
The Benefits of Disclosure
As frightening as it can be to disclose a medical leave on your resume, there are also some
First and perhaps most importantly, disclosing the leave on your resume can prevent recruiters from drawing inappropriate and incorrect conclusions about a significant employment gap. This helps you take control of the narrative concerning the leave, your health status, and your capacity to work. You can, in essence, take advantage of the opportunity to reassure your prospective employer that you have received the care you needed and are now able and eager to return to work.
In addition, being transparent and forthright from the outset will leave a far more favorable
impression than appearing to attempt to conceal the gap. If you “hide” the medical leave,
recruiters may wonder what else you may be concealing that could be of relevance to your
candidacy. Likewise, they may assume that the condition is worse or will have a greater impact on your job performance than you are letting on.
Finally, being open about the leave and the circumstances surrounding it gives you the
opportunity to cast the time off in a new light by underscoring the skills you developed and the activities you engaged in during your medical leave. This enables you to use the leave
disclosure to focus on your aptitudes, training, and qualifications rather than on the illness or injury.
The Downside of Disclosure
To be sure, there are many positives to disclosing a medical leave on your resume. That does
not mean, however, that there are no downsides. While the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) forbids employers from discriminating against qualified job candidates on the basis of
disability, it would be naive to assume that recruiters won’t have concerns about the impact an employee’s medical condition could have on the company.
Small business owners, in particular, may have concerns about the potential healthcare costs or the impact on the company’s insurance rolls. They may also feel some trepidation in regard to your ability to work consistently over the long term — or whether additional leaves of absence will be required.
In light of this, it’s imperative that you be prepared to address and allay these concerns in your interview. It’s also important to remember that you are under no legal obligation to disclose your health status to your employer unless it affects your ability to do the job for which you are applying.
Should you choose not to disclose your medical leave, there are a few legitimate tactics you
could use instead to address gaps in employment history. You could list employment dates by year rather than by month and year. You may also choose the Functional Format rather than the traditional, Reverse Chronology format for your resume.
Should you choose to go this route, though, you should be prepared for the possibility that the leave could be discovered in some other way, such as by contacting previous employers and learning of your exact departure dates from them.
Best Practices for Disclosing Medical Leave
If you’re considering including your medical leave on your resume, there are a few best
practices to keep in mind. Above all, remember that you don’t need to disclose short medical
absences, such as brief leaves taken to recover from ophthalmic surgery or anything that has short recovery times.
Also, if you choose to disclose but you don’t want the leave to be conspicuous on the resume, you could use the Functional Resume or omit the months from the dates provided in a Reverse Chronological Resume. Then, disclose the leave in a cover letter or in a brief note at the end of your resume’s employment history section.
Finally, if you are experiencing a chronic physical or mental health condition, it’s imperative that you seek outside support as you return to the workforce. Seeking mental healthcare from a qualified therapist can enable you to more effectively navigate the challenges of managing your health while returning to the workforce. Your therapist can also provide practical advice for addressing your condition in your application materials and during the interviewing and onboarding process.
Returning to work after a medical leave can be a challenge. One of the most important
decisions you can make during the process is whether and how to disclose your medical leave on your resume.
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About the author
Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about career guidance and education but occasionally goes back to her roots with socially active news journalism. Frankie spends her free time cultivating her zero-waste garden or hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.