The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that over 28 million workdays were lost due to work-related ill health in 2018.

If you’ve had to take time off work for health reasons, it can be difficult to know how to present a gap in your CV and what you should or shouldn’t disclose to a prospective employer.

Finding a new job if you’ve been ill or injured

Discussing an illness or injury can be a sensitive topic but there are ways that you can positively address time off on your CV or in an interview. The trick is to find the best way to present your circumstances whilst still giving a prospective employer the information they need to ensure you are considered fairly.

The Equality Act of 2010 states that employers may not discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of certain ‘protected characteristics’, including race, age, religion and disability.

As a job applicant, you don’t have to disclose a disability, illness or injury on your CV – whether it’s ongoing or historic –  but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do so.

If a job advert receives hundreds of applications, recruiters may ruthlessly reject candidates as they sift through applications. CVs with questionable or unexplained employment gaps could be (unfairly) cut from the pile.

On the other hand, if your CV openly states that the gap is due to injury but offers no detail, some recruiters might imagine you to be accident prone or careless.

What are my options for presenting a gap in my CV?

There are a number of ways in which you can address a break in your employment history; 

Leave a gap

An unexplained gap will raise questions and could mean that your application falls at the first hurdle. With nothing else to go on but their imagination, the recruiter may just assume the worst.  Maybe you were incarcerated, in rehab or just loafing around?

Be imprecise with dates

Rounding months off to years on your CV will mask the break in your work history.  Recruiters are aware of this tactic and will most likely think that you are attempting to conceal a gap. This approach is probably less advisable than leaving an unexplained gap as it has a whiff of deception.

Be succinct

You might decide to mention your ill health on your CV but provide no further details. For example: ‘I was unable to work during this period due to illness’.

Although honest, this option will still leave a recruiter with questions. Is this a recurring illness? Will it impact your ability to do the job?

Be upfront and detailed

Giving details will ensure that the prospective employer is in no doubt about the reasons for your absence and they will be able to evaluate your CV fairly and appropriately.

A little spin can even portray your time off work in a favourable light. You might frame your time off in the same way that you would present a period of employment:

‘August 2017 – January 2019 – Recovery after serious injury: During this period, I was unable to work following an accident at work. Throughout my recovery, I focused on developing my skills and I took an online course in JavaScript.’

Such an approach could strengthen your application and present you as an open, honest and proactive person. 

Do I need to say if the injury occurred at work?

No. You are not obliged to disclose any details about your illness or injury, including whether it took place at work.

Whilst most recruiters won’t press for further details about an absence due to injury, a lack of detail may arouse suspicion. If a recruiter knows nothing about the cause of your accident, they could jump to conclusions – perhaps imagining you to be reckless or accident prone. 

It may be better to skirt around the cause of the accident on your CV. However, if you are comfortable talking about it, you can take control of the narrative and explain what happened in a positive manner.

Stress that, although you were unable to work for a period, you have since recovered and are raring to go. Focus on the experience you gained during your time off.  Maybe you collaborated with your previous employer on a health and safety audit that would help prevent a similar accident occurring to anyone else?  Maybe you did some voluntary work?

Don’t go overboard and present yourself as a hero. But if you come across as a practical individual who triumphs over adversity it could help you stand out.

Should I mention a compensation claim?

It is your legal right as a worker to seek compensation if you were injured as a result of an employer’s failure in their duty of care. Employers are not allowed to ask whether you took legal action, and most won’t go there.

Don’t mention a legal claim on your CV but if you choose to mention it in your interview, it can give you the chance to talk positively about your experience.

Chris Salmon, Director of Quittance Legal Services, said, “Good recruiters will be aware that if someone cannot work during their recovery they may have no choice but to claim.”

“Mentioning the claim in your CV is not usually necessary, but rehearse an answer in case the subject arises during your interview. This gives you another opportunity to ‘control the narrative’ and sell your skills and experience in positive terms.”

What if my health condition is ongoing?

Again, there is no obligation to disclose an ongoing health condition. However, there could be benefits to letting an employer know upfront. It can give them the opportunity to ask questions that they may have and put their mind at ease about your condition. It can also give them the time and information that they need in order to make any necessary adjustments to the role or workplace for you. 

Taking ownership of the situation and offering information to your prospective employers will further show you as a positive, proactive and problem-solving individual.

What if you’re uncomfortable discussing your situation?

If you would rather not discuss your health on your CV or at an interview, then you are entirely within your rights not to do so.

If you are not comfortable in talking about your situation, but want to make sure you’re considered fairly, you could email the HR or recruitment department of your prospective employer to outline your concerns and to make it clear that you would not like to discuss this at the interview stage. This will show you in a positive light and an employer is likely to be impressed that you had the foresight to address this before the interview.

Honesty is the best policy

If the employer decides to progress your application, they will usually follow up on your references and perhaps even look at your social media profiles. They may not react well if they discover something significant about your illness or injury that you have not disclosed.

If they feel that you have been dishonest, you might start your job on the wrong foot. In extreme cases a job offer might be withdrawn. 

The best course of action when it comes to injury, illness or disability is to be honest and transparent. An employer will appreciate your candour and judge your CV in a more favourable light.


Chris Salmon

Operations Director

Quittance Legal Services