When should I tell my co-op employer about my medical needs?
December 14, 2016 2:57 PM   Subscribe

In January I will start a paid, four-month long co-op position as part of a college program. It is likely that for the duration of the work term I will require four to five medical appoints per month (about one per week) as part of a treatment for chronic pain. This includes physio and nerve block injections. These appointments are short (45 minutes to an hour) and do not affect my ability to work. Should I inform them now, or wait until the intake process on my first day?
posted by Gin and Comics to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you know who will be your soon-to-be direct supervisor, telling them now would be fine. If you don't, just wait until your first day, no big deal.
posted by so fucking future at 3:08 PM on December 14, 2016

If the appointments don't affect your ability to work, why would you tell them at all?
posted by kindall at 4:06 PM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

From employment experience rather than college or co-op experience: wait until you start to tell them about this (which, if you're in the US, easily falls under "reasonable accommodation"), and don't give them any more detail than is necessary. "I'll need to take an hour a week to attend a necessary medical appointment" is fine, but they don't need to know about your overall health issues or that you're dealing with chronic pain.

With luck, they've dealt with this kind of thing and will work with you to fit this into the requirements of your position. If they balk, you might consider asking your doctor to write a (non-detailed) letter saying that you're under their care and that flexibility in addressing this matter of reasonable accommodation will be appreciated... or something similar that makes it clear you're aware that employers are required to undergo an interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodations can make it possible for a person to do their job.
posted by Lexica at 4:07 PM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

I see this as a scheduling thing...
similar to a required class that you need to take
...is there a set schedule of treatments?
posted by calgirl at 4:21 PM on December 14, 2016

I would just tell your supervisor "I have a weekly doctor's appointment for an hour at [time] every [day of week]," or whatever the schedule is.
posted by zippy at 5:27 PM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't see how they need this information until you start at least. & they only need the information if it affects your schedule, which I'm not clear on from your question.
posted by bleep at 7:33 PM on December 14, 2016

Is it possible for you to schedule the appointments to better accommodate the work schedule? For example, if your team had a regular team meeting every Tuesday 10-11 AM, you'd want to make sure you wouldn't need to leave then or right after (in case the meeting ran long -- those weird long discussions are some of the best things you can learn about as a co-op).

Find out how far in advance you'll need to schedule the doctors' appointments; some of these clinics have tight inflexible schedules. Then, if it's the kind of thing you need to schedule a month in advance, find out everything you can about the co-op job schedule ASAP, and go ahead and tell your supervisor about the appointment and how inflexible it is. Ask when would be the best time for you to schedule this appointment, so that you'll be most conveniently available for the team and you'll be around for the most important learning opportunities.

Then, when it's clear you have whatever internal scheduling stuff

Your visible diligence will help avoid the team scheduling stuff that you'd have to miss. Bringing it up ahead of time, and then reminding your supervisor delicately when you arrive, will help avoid things suddenly being scheduled during that time.

Of course you can't expect that things will never be scheduled when you have to be away, and you shouldn't expect anyone to seriously inconvenience the team for this when you're still a learning newbie, but this will at least make it possible for people to have that information in case they choose to use it.
posted by amtho at 7:50 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just to be clear: The appointments are usually on Wednesdays, for about an hour, and would be during the work day. The physio appointments can be hard to get, so I am bound to her schedule. Nerve blocks are a little more flexible, and those appointments can usually be made throughout the day.

I'm not sure on the etiquette of simply leaving work for a period of time on a fairly regular basis. I've never had an salaried position, so I'm not sure how to handle this. All of previous work experience is hourly, so I just booked time off.
posted by Gin and Comics at 7:55 PM on December 14, 2016

How it works in a salary position depends on the office. Some places want you to come in early or stay late that day, some places don't care and basically figure that if you do your work they're not going to micromanage your schedule. Since you're young and new to the workforce, I'd err on the making up the extra time that day or the day before/after.
posted by radioamy at 7:57 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

In general, I would say wait for the intake process. In a salaried position, you would normally just be expected to make up the time. However, amtho brings up a good point about scheduled team meetings. That is worth contacting your future supervisor to see if there are any conflicts. If there is a conflict, you may want to look into rescheduling the appointments and sooner is better than later.
posted by TORunner at 4:24 AM on December 15, 2016

"I'm not sure on the etiquette of simply leaving work for a period of time on a fairly regular basis."

Definitely do not leave without telling anyone. Even in a place with very flexible hours, if you're regularly away from your desk during working hours for extended periods with no explanation, people are likely to assume you're a flake. This is a particular risk for a young new employee.

Deferring to others on the question of when and how exactly to say it.
posted by floppyroofing at 11:01 AM on December 15, 2016

As someone who often supervises college students (for up to 8 months at a time) I would want to know this as soon as possible - simply because I start creating schedules for my students before their placement even starts. Specifically, I would want to accommodate your need to be away on certain days/times, while also making sure that I was able to fulfill the requirements of your placement (if there are academic requirements, for example, or if you are hoping to experience specific aspects of the business). YMMV, of course, depending on your program, requirements, etc.
posted by VioletU at 6:26 PM on December 19, 2016

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