How does dyslexia affect the workplace?
Dyslexia affects around 10% of the population in varying degrees. Many people with dyslexia are very determined, creative and excel in their chosen profession; Richard Branson, Albert Einstein and Jamie Oliver are just a few famous examples that prove dyslexia doesn’t have to hinder success. However it remains important that appropriate support is given to help overcome difficulties that may be encountered.
An employee with dyslexia, although highly suited to their core job, may find difficulties with report and letter writing, short-term memory, concentration and organisation, which can lead to tasks taking longer combined with additional frustration, stress and anxiety.
Many people with dyslexia develop strategies and mechanisms to compensate for, and work around their difficulties. Because of this there are many adults who have never been diagnosed as having dyslexia. Both this and the individual’s strengths are not being recognised during their educational career. They may not associate some of the difficulties that they are experiencing with dyslexia, as popular belief is that dyslexia is only a difficulty with reading and writing.
Making simple and straightforward adjustments can benefit the whole workplace as well as the individual. Improvements include efficiency, stress reduction, less sick leave and maximising the strengths and efficiency of the workforce.
What can employers do?
If an employee is experiencing difficulties, which could be due to dyslexia, screening with Lucid’s LADS Plus or SPOT Your Potential is the first step in the process and will indicate the probability of dyslexia. If an employee is at risk of dyslexia further assessment and consultation can be carried out to identify how best to assist and adapt the working environment to maximise satisfaction and productivity.
Although fairly comprehensive, this page does not purport to cover all the issues concerning adults with dyslexia. If further information is required visit the British Dyslexia Association website.
The Disability Discrimination Act (Employment)
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) prohibits discrimination against disabled people in employment. Employers must not discriminate against a disabled person in the
- recruitment and retention of employees
- promotion and transfers
- training and development
- the dismissal process.
For the purposes of the Act a person is regarded as having a disability if he or she has 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. Although dyslexia does not always affect a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities because they often develop compensatory strategies, if dyslexic people cannot do this for any reason the effects can be disabling and would therefore come within the terms of the Act.
Employers must make ‘reasonable adjustment’ to their premises or employment arrangements, if these substantially disadvantage a disabled employee, or prospective employee, compared to a non-disabled person. An employer must not refuse to employ someone simply because they have a disability. They also have a duty to think about different ways of working. However, the DDA does not apply to the police, armed services personnel, prison officers, fire fighters or people who work on board ships, aircraft or hovercraft. It also does not apply to organisations that have fewer than 15 employees. ‘Reasonable adjustments’ in cases of employees or prospective employees with dyslexia might include:
- supplying additional training
- reallocating part of a job to another employee
- acquiring additional equipment
- modifying instructions or reference manuals
- modifying procedures for testing or assessment
- providing a reader
- allowing absences from work for special tuition in literacy
For further information about the DDA, visit the website www.disability.gov.uk
Supporting dyslexic adults in the workplace
The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) maintains that if employers become ‘dyslexia-wise’ then in addition to supporting dyslexic employees they will reap benefits for business as a whole. The BDA recommends that workplace support for dyslexia should be based on the following five fundamental principles:
- Understand what dyslexia is — Dyslexia is widespread across all workforces. Issues with reading are just one of the many challenges that face dyslexic people at work.
- Ensuring access to information — Use a variety of communication tools to disseminate information to the workforce.
- Identify the issues in the workplace — Assess situations that may place dyslexic employees at a disadvantage, impede their performance or limit their potential. Carry out an audit to ensure there is a balance between written and non-written communication. Consider how to improve alternative ways of communicating in the organisation; for example, meetings not memos.
- Develop specialist knowledge and support — Offer access to dyslexia screening, assessment and ongoing support for those who request it. Make sure that everyone knows this provision is available.
- Create a culture of confidence — Provide mechanisms so that dyslexics can be open about their dyslexia. Work with Unions and other employee organisations to enable them to enhance their performance.
Further information about these five principles can be found in the British Dyslexia Association’s publication entitled ‘An Employers Guide to Dyslexia’. This is designed to give an insight into the nature of dyslexia, how it can affect people in the workplace and how to develop an action plan for supporting employees who have dyslexia. This publication can be obtained from the BDA.
If an employee believes he or she has been discriminated against, the issue should first be raised with an appropriate person in their organisation (e.g. their line manager, personnel manager or trades union official), who may be able to resolve the issue or explain the organisation’s internal complaints and appeals procedure. Remember that LADS Plus is only a screening system and does not purport to provide a diagnosis of dyslexia, so if an employee is minded to take a dispute further (e.g. to Court) then further professional evidence of their dyslexia will be necessary, e.g. from a suitably qualified psychologist.
Further advice and help may be sought from the following organisations:
ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Services) is a government agency that will provide free initial advice on an employment query, and try to negotiate a settlement. A copy of any complaint lodged with a tribunal will be sent automatically to an ACAS conciliation officer. If conciliation is successful, the parties will reach an agreement, which will normally be recorded in writing. Ask for the regional centre.
Tel: 020 7396 5100. Web: www.acas.org.uk
Citizens Advice Bureau can help individuals negotiate with their employer and may in some cases be able to represent them at a hearing. Check the local phone book for details.
Disability Law Service provides free legal advice to disabled people and representation where appropriate.
Tel: 020 7791 9800. Fax: 020 7791 9802. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Equality and Human Rights Commission. This is an independent body working towards the elimination of discrimination against - and equalising opportunities for disabled people. Helplines:
England. Tel: 0845 604 6610 Wales Tel: 0845 604 8810 Scotland Tel: 0845 604 5510
E-mail: email@example.com Website: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/ Provides government information booklets on the Disability Discrimination Act. [See also Section 6.3.2].
Employers Forum on Disability.
Tel: 020 7403 3020. Fax: 020 7403 0404.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.efd.org.uk/
Employment Rights Association.
Tel: 020 7387 2522. Fax: 020 7387 2250.
Email: email@example.com Web: www.lowpayunit.org.uk
The Employment Tribunal has a National Helpline number
Tel: 08457 959 775. Fax: 01284 766 334 . Web: www.ets.gov.uk
Local Law Centres may provide free advice and representation. Contact the head office to locate the nearest: Law Centres Federation.
Tel: 020 7387 8570. Fax: 020 7387 8368. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.lawcentres.org.uk
RADAR is able to give advice on the Disability Discrimination Act:
Tel: 020 7250 3222. Fax: 020 7250 0212. Email: email@example.com Web: www.radar.org.uk
Information taken from the Lucid LADS Plus Manual