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The Equality Act 2010

The Act came into effect on 1 October 2010.  The legislation was intended to harmonise a number of different pieces of legislation to provide a single Act to harmonise the law and provide a single framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance the principle of equality for all persons.

 

Under the terms of this legislation, employers are under a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” for persons suffering from disability.  Dyslexia is recognised as a disability within the meaning of the legislation because individuals with the condition are considered to be at a substantial disadvantage within the workplace when compared to those who do not suffer from the condition.

 

Although dyslexia is the most common disability that will be encountered in the workplace, it is all too often overlooked or poorly understood by employers who may not be aware of the indicators.  The fact that many adult dyslexics will often feel shame or inferiority in the workplace and as such, become adept at disguising or hiding the problem doesn’t help.

 

The Duty to Make Reasonable Adjustments

Employers are under a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” for dyslexic employees if:

 

  1. They know or are aware of the condition in an individual or
  2. If they could reasonably be expected to know.

 

So deliberately turning a blind eye or simply ignoring the possibility that they may need to take action in the belief that this will excuse their inaction will be no defence.  Nor is it enough for the employer to rely on the employee volunteering that they have the condition or that they are struggling with aspects of their work.   Employees may be reluctant to come forward for fear of bullying or other discriminatory treatment by management or their colleagues.

 

It is also worth noting the that obligation to make reasonable adjustments for disability will extend through the advertising and recruitment process as well as to those already in work.  They will also apply to any performance, appraisal process, promotion and selection and redundancy consideration.

 

Examples of “reasonable adjustments” that might be made

The adjustment(s) that may need to be made will be dictated by the nature of the employee’s condition and the associated symptoms or issues that this manifests.

 

Many adjustments can be made at little or very reasonable cost and can make a great deal of difference to the dyslexic employee.

 

In the case of dyslexia experience suggests that the bulk of the problems will be associated with administrative and clerical aspects of the job.

  • Written communications – writing, reading, spelling, grammar and filling in forms.
  • Verbal communications – a tendency to have trouble remembering or following detailed instructions.
  • Time management – easily distracted, problems with concentrating, remembering appointments and times.
  • General memory difficulties – especially with names, numbers and lists.

 

Examples of reasonable adjustments

These are intended to be illustrative only.

 

Suffering reading problems

  • Give verbal rather than written instructions.
  • Use voicemail rather than email.
  • Providing screen reading software facilities.
  • Adjusting PC screen setup to show coloured background instead of white.
  • Provide text-to-speech or other assistive program.

 

Writing Problems

  • Adjust deadlines to allow more time for completion/issue documents earlier.
  • Consider other methods of communicating information.
  • Provide speech-to-text software (eg. Dragon).

 

  • Provide a Smartpen.
  • Provide modified spell checker program.

 

Verbal communication issues

  • Give instructions one at a time.
  • Choose a quiet location.
  • Ask for the instructions to be repeated back.
  • Encourage the employee to take notes and check these before allowing them to proceed.

 

Time planning.

  • Consider moving the employee to a quieter location in the workplace.
  • If possible allow them to work from home from time to time.
  • Allow the employee time to write notes or highlights when interrupting them in a task.
  • Adopt a ‘do-not-disturb’ policy for set times in the day.
  • Provide a wall planner or device to allow them to organise their time effectively.
  • Remind the employee of pending deadlines.

 

 

Reasonableness

In determining what (and what is not) reasonable for the employer, the following criteria should be taken into account:-

  • The size and nature of the organisation and its resources
  • Cost of the adjustment(s).
  • Extent of any disruption to the business.
  • Effect on other employees.
  • Any health or safety concerns or issues.
  • The levels of any external sources of help and/or funding.

 

A failure to make reasonable adjustments leaves the employer open to a claim in a tribunal.