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Workplace dyslexia and the law

Workplace dyslexia and the law

Workplace dyslexia and the law

Although individual adaptability makes it is difficult to be exact, experts suggest that around 10% of the general population are dyslexic which has led to many schools from investing in Dyslexia support from companies such as CPD Bytes. What’s more, dyslexia is a ‘hidden’ condition, meaning there may not be obvious indications or adjustments that can be made to make the workplace that reflect employee need.

Where a workplace or employment arrangement puts someone with a disability at a disadvantage – the 2010 Equality Act requires employers make reasonable adjustments. Because there are a wide range of issues that can relate to dyslexia – getting a full understanding of a person’s requirements is important when it comes to following the law.

Whether you’re an employer, employee or prospective candidate we’ll walk you through some of the law surrounding dyslexia and employment.

What does the law actually say?

Since the Equality Act is a weighty document some 250 pages in length – it’s useful to cut it down to size when you’re looking at one specific issue. Essentially the message is this – an organisation cannot refuse employment simply because an individual has dyslexia. Not only that – but an employer must think of ways of working that could enable a dyslexic person to fulfil any role.

It’s easy to think about equality in terms of just initial employment – but equality laws must be observed in other situations too:

  • Employee retention
  • Internal promotion and transfers
  • Training and development
  • Performance management and dismissal

Is dyslexia a disability?

In health terms, there’s a distinction between a ‘disability’ and a ‘difficulty’. Essentially a disability puts a permanent cap on a person’s ability to perform a certain task, however, a difficulty can normally be overcome with the right support.

Despite being distinct in the health professions, government legislation refers to dyslexia as a disability and is therefore covered by all disability and equality law.

As a candidate or employee

Whether you are a candidate for a role or an existing employee it’s entirely up to you whether or not you disclose your dyslexia to your employer. You might decide that it is important for you to disclose this information from the very start – and you might have no choice if you feel it would otherwise hinder your ability to apply.

Although legally you have no obligation to disclose your dyslexia, you might choose to do so in your CV, application form or covering letter, during or preceding your interview, at the point of being offered the role, upon commencement of the role or even later when you’re in employment. It doesn’t matter when you do this – the law says your employment should not be affected.

The benefits of disclosing dyslexia

For many people dyslexia can be a tough subject to discuss – especially if your experience throughout education was difficult as a result of your condition. There are benefits to disclosing your condition though – think about it this way:

You and your colleague are both candidates for a promotion. Your performance reviews have both been good and there’s little that would help an interview panel to decide between you both.

You might think that declaring your dyslexia at this stage would swing the decision toward your colleague – but why? If you’re both performing well an awareness of your condition and some adaptations to your working environment could very well bolster your productivity and performance to levels that set you head and shoulders above any other applicant.

What if you’re struggling?

Maybe your workplace performance is lagging behind others? Without declaring your dyslexia your reasons for diminished performance might be put down to other factors – if they include “a lack of focus” or being perceived as “lacking dedication” it’s possible you’re being judged without all the information. Don’t forget, the law protects you against unfair treatment – but if your employer doesn’t know about your condition, they also don’t know that they should be doing more to support you.

Ultimately the decision is yours, but being supported around dyslexia can mean your energy can be focused on letting your talents shine.

Are you an employer?

As well as ensuring your recruitment and training policies fit with the Equality Act there’s a big emphasis on occupational health requirements also being fit for purpose. Making ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with dyslexia can often be done cheaply and with little impact on resources.

Although this list isn’t exhaustive, adjustments can include:

For issues with reading and writing

  • Providing information in a more suitable format – i.e. video, diagrams, examples.
  • Using specialist spelling and grammar checking tools

For memory issues relating to dyslexia

  • Ensuring objectives are provided individually
  • Setting up the office and workspace in an intuitive and easy to use manner

For commination issues

  • Making sure messages are clear and nothing is assumed or implied
  • Observing turn taking and adhering to agendas in meetings
  • Clear lines of communication that mean tangents are

Supporting around the lesser-known effects of dyslexia

In some instances, a lack of in-depth understanding of their own condition means dyslexic people are missing out on either the adaptations needed to perform their role effectively – or the recompense that they could be due for not being provided the right working adjustments.

The term dyslexia is almost entirely attributed to reading and writing – where in fact it should be considered a ‘processing’ impairment. Imagine the brain to have a measurable and finite amount processing power – now take up a large chunk of that power with attempts to handle reading and writing tasks – leaving a diminished amount of processing ability for ‘working memory’ tasks or the ability to cope with a busy working environment. This is how many other dyslexia related issues occur.

Employer and employee awareness

It takes an incredible amount of awareness for an individual to go to an employer with a deep understanding of their struggles. Instead – they are more likely to complain of headaches – or go to the doctor and present you with a sick note citing stress.

Abiding by the law shouldn’t be the only driving factor for an employer to effectively work with dyslexia – when you begin to understand the range of issues that can occur for dyslexic people, you come closer to unlocking their true working potential – at the same time as bolstering productivity and reducing sickness and staff turnover. If a management consultancy company offered these same results it’s likely you’d employ their services – the reality is, you can positively impact all of these factors by just understanding you’re a condition that affects around 1 in 10 people in a little more depth.