25th October 2023
‘One in ten people are estimated to have dyslexia, according to the British Dyslexia Association,’ says Sarah Everton, Head of Employment Law at Myers & Co. ‘Charities such as Made By Dyslexia are encouraging employers to see the benefits of what they describe as ‘dyslexic thinking’ involving above-average creativity and problem-solving skills.’
Sarah Everton looks at the legal obligations on employers and offers practical tips for employers to support dyslexic job applicants and employees.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects individuals in different ways. What this means for dyslexic employees is that they may have to work harder than their peers just to keep up with the demands of their jobs.
It can often affect spelling, reading and the ability to process information quickly, as well as remembering information. It can also affect concentration and organisational skills. A recent employment tribunal case also found that for one employee, his dyslexia resulted in him occasionally being unable to properly express what he was thinking (Borg-Neal v Lloyds Banking Group 2022).
Dyslexia, along with other common forms of neurodiversity such as autism, has long been recognised by employment tribunals as a possible disability. This can give dyslexic individuals the protection of the Equality Act 2010. To be protected, their dyslexia must have a long-term and substantial adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Discrimination against disabled employees or job applicants is unlawful even if it is unintentional, and it can take a number of forms:
Even if an employee does not declare that they are disabled, the employer could be on notice that they may be a disabled person under the Equality Act 2010. This could happen where the employee appears to struggle with specific tasks that others find straightforward, or mentions always taking longer than others to read a report. Employers may be expected to explore this with the employee.
Obtaining occupational health advice or an assessment by a psychologist may be a necessary next step.
Occupational health advice or suggestions in a dyslexia assessment can be helpful when looking at reasonable adjustments. Such advice or an assessment should be discussed with the employee, along with any suggestions they have about changes that could help make their working life more accommodating of their dyslexia. What works will depend on the individual.
Employers only have to make adjustments that are reasonable. A number of factors are at play in determining what is reasonable, including the cost to the employer and how effective the step will be for removing the disadvantage that the employee experiences. For example, some possible adjustments include:
Any adjustments should be discussed with the employee and reviewed regularly to check that they are effective.
While they will not pay for reasonable adjustments, the Government’s Access to Work scheme may assess what adjustments should be made. The British Dyslexia Association offers a range of services for employers, and Made By Dyslexia provides guidance and training for employers.
In recent years, there has been increased focus on employers ensuring that their recruitment practices are inclusive for neurodiverse individuals. Employers can obtain a dyslexia-friendly quality mark from the British Dyslexia Association as an outward sign of a commitment to best practice to support dyslexic employees.
By training staff, employers can increase awareness and understanding of neurodiversity, including dyslexia. An open and understanding culture, coupled with informed managers, should help ensure potential issues are constructively addressed before the employee encounters difficulties.
We can advise you on making your recruitment and other processes more dyslexia-friendly, as well as give you practical advice on dealing with any specific cases. This should help you avoid costly claims as well as help you become an inclusive employer.
For further information, please contact Sarah Everton in the employment team on 01782 525012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.