The Equality Act came into effect on 1st October 2010 and it legally protects individuals from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.
Under the terms of this legislation, employers are under a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” for individuals with a disability. Dyslexia is a recognised disability within the meaning of the legislation because individuals are considered to be at a substantial disadvantage within the workplace when compared to those who are not dyslexic.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia are forms of neurodivergence. Being neurodivergent will often amount to a disability under the Equality Act even if the person does not consider themselves to be disabled.
Dyslexia is 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 have a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” for dyslexic and neurodivergent employees if:
- they know or are aware of the individual’s condition, or,
- they could reasonably be expected to know.
Turning a blind eye or simply ignoring the possibility to take action is not a reasonable excuse for an employer. Nor is it enough for the employer to rely on the employee volunteering that they are neurodivergent 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 in the workplace.
Employers are also obliged to make reasonable adjustments for all candidates and employees during recruitment, redundancy and/or appraisal processes.
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 employees.
In the case of the dyslexia experience adjustments tend to be associated with administrative and clerical aspects of the job. For example:
- 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
Adjustments for reading differences
- Give verbal rather than written instructions.
- Use voicemail rather than email.
- Provide screen reading software facilities.
- Adjusting PC screen setup to show a coloured background instead of a white background.
- Provide text-to-speech or other assistive program.
Adjustments for writing differences
- Adjust deadlines to allow more time for completion and issue documents earlier.
- Consider other methods of communicating information.
- Provide speech-to-text software (e.g. Dragon).
- Provide a smartpen, or scanning pen.
- Provide modified spell checker program.
Adjustments for verbal differences
- Give one instruction at a time.
- Choose a quiet location.
- Ask for the instructions to be repeated back.
- Encourage the employee to take notes and check the notes
Adjustments for time management differences
- Consider moving the employee to a quieter location in the workplace.
- If possible allow them to work flexibly and/or from home.
- 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.
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.
It is for the employer to decide what is reasonably practicable to implement.