What is dyslexia?
The word “dyslexia” is derived from Greek and means “difficulty with words”. Dyslexia is a neurological learning difficulty which can have a significant impact during education, in the workplace and in everyday life but individual experiences do vary depending on how mild or severe the dyslexia is. The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) reports that 10% of the population are believed to be dyslexic yet it is often poorly understood.
Dyslexia primarily affects reading and writing skills but is not limited to this and is known to impact other areas of day-to-day life, such as organisational skills. Dyslexia has no bearing on intelligence and occurs across a range of intellectual abilities. Being neurodiverse is not a negative and in certain areas such as reasoning, problem solving and in visual and creative fields, dyslexic people show strengths over and above neurotypical employees (read our blog on more information about neurodiverse individuals).
The legal requirements
Under the Equality Act 2010, a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Dyslexia could meet this legal definition and thus could be legally classified as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. An employer must make reasonable adjustments for a disabled worker which aim to remove or minimise disadvantages experiences by disabled people. Employers should also review their policies and practices to ensure they do not put disabled people at a disadvantage.
According to the BDA, here is what you should determine before putting reasonable adjustments in place should you have a dyslexic employee:
- The nature of the individual’s dyslexia; this could be obtained from a diagnostic assessment.
- The requirements of the job and its related requirements.
- The working environment and working practices, and any impact on performance.
- The requirements of any associated training and assessment.
Is your workplace dyslexia friendly?
Having employees with dyslexia is not as daunting as people may make it out to be. It is not a case of “they cannot interpret numbers or read at a certain speed so they’re not good at their job”. The attitude should be “how can we make adjustments to encourage neurodivergent employees to do their best in their field?”.
With the effective approach and support, a dyslexic employee can become a valuable asset to the team due to their unique perception of the world. Helping to establish an inclusive culture for all your employees ensures that individuals maximise their potential and use their strengths to thrive in the workplace. It can also increase self-confidence and reduce stress and the overall negative impact neurodiverse conditions can have on mental health, as they can often coincide.
It is important to understand the severity of dyslexia to offer the best support, there are various online screening tests (more information available on the British Dyslexia Association screening page) and checklists (such as the Adult Dyslexia Checklist) for an employer to use for their own indication purposes. However, it is important to remember that a formal diagnosis can only be provided by an experienced professional such as a GP or the BDA.
The following initiatives can create a more inclusive environment for dyslexic individuals and promote understanding between colleagues and may also be appropriate reasonable adjustments where the dyslexia amounts to a disability:
- Diversity and inclusivity training.
- Neurodiversity training.
- Staff training and awareness initiatives to understand the challenges and strengths dyslexia presents.
- Encourage to-do lists to manage organisational difficulties the individual may have which may affect time management.
- Use of assistive technology.
- Flexibility around deadlines to cater for issues surrounding dyslexia.
- Adapt communication methods, for example:
- Print information on different coloured paper, in larger text or make it available as an audio file.
- Instead of written briefs, the individual may prefer tasks to be demonstrated to them.
- Have a policy on dyslexia in the staff handbook which outlines the support offered to them and who they should contact should they have any issues relating to their condition or workload.
- Refrain from asking your dyslexic employee to compile meeting minutes but instead record your meeting on audio.
- Allow frequent computer breaks and alternate computer work with other tasks if possible
- Provide a distraction free area for focused tasks that take concentration.
- Introduce Smart Working and flexible hours – if possible, let your employee work from home on some days if they think they will be more productive.
- Make sure work areas are neat and tidy and things are put back into the place they were taken as missing items can disrupt someone’s thought process or cause a distraction.
What rights do you have as a dyslexic employee?
As stated above, employers must make reasonable adjustments for dyslexic employees if it meets the definition set out in the Equality Act 2010. Employees should bear in mind that an employer only has to make reasonable adjustments for a worker when they have been made aware or ought to have known that the employee was disabled. Thus, as a dyslexic employee, opening up conversation and disclosing your dyslexia is crucial.
Should you feel able, an employee should ask to talk to their manager or HR about their dyslexia so that the employer can understand how best to support the employee. If your employer is refusing to make these adjustments, it may qualify as disability discrimination.
How can Thrive help?
Whether you are an employer or an employee, we can offer the right support to ensure you get the desired outcome.
If you are an employer, we can review staff handbooks, policies and contracts of employment to ensure a dyslexic employee would have all the information they require clearly set out. You can also check out our HR packages, which we can tailor to your business needs.
If you are an employee and are worried your adjustments are not being implemented, please get in touch. We can advise in regards to what is reasonable, grievance procedures, and disputes regarding your disability, to ensure the best outcome.
If you would like to know more about what a disability is, please click here.
Sonia Kullar and Khaleeqa Bostan
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