Talking to your employer about your chronic pain

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Sometimes having chronic pain can have a big effect on your ability to work and the types of tasks you can do. Being able to discuss your pain effectively with your employer will impact your experience at work, and your ability to be a better employee.

Do I need to tell my employer I have pain?

You do not need to tell anyone at work that you experience chronic pain if you don’t want to, but there can be benefits to telling your supervisor or the human resources manager about your pain and treatment. For instance, if your employer understands your medical situation with pain, they may be able to provide accommodations.

Remember that your health information is private and should be kept confidential by your supervisors at work. You may want to ask your human resources department or manager if your employer has a confidentiality policy, as this may help you decide what information you want to share.

If you choose to tell your supervisor or human resources department about your condition, ask if they need any supporting documents, such as a doctor’s letter.

Once you tell your employer about your condition, they should then communicate with the rest of your team to let them know what tasks you can and cannot do. They should do this without sharing the details of your health condition with your coworkers, unless you inform them they can.

Keep in mind also that some jobs might be a better fit for you than others in terms of accommodations.

  • You will probably need to take some time off work to go to appointments or rest you’re not feeling well. You can ask your supervisor what changes can be made to your schedule.
  • If your abilities change due to your pain, you may need special equipment, a different role or changes to your duties.

Ask your supervisor, human resources department or union (if applicable) about your rights and the resources that are available to you to support you at work. You might also consider discussing your needs with colleagues whom you trust.

Last updated: May 2nd 2016