Dyslexia in the Workplace

An employee who has been struggling with his work has recently told me he has dyslexia. Does the organisation have any obligations to the employee in this respect? 

Dyslexia is predicted to affect approximately 10% of the British population, according to the British Dyslexia Association meaning it is incredibly likely that a current or future employee will be dyslexic.  As dyslexia may be regarded as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, supporting employees with it is paramount. An employee who has a disability is entitled to reasonable adjustments within the workplace. If an employee is subject to a detriment because of a disability they could pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal and where a claim succeeds, there would be no upper ceiling on the amount of compensation that could be awarded, as it would be considered a discrimination claim.

Employees with dyslexia bring as many strengths and qualities to a business, as those unaffected, which means it’s incredibly important to encourage people to speak up about it. There are several ways you can unleash the potential of employees with dyslexia and this may include:

1. Setting up a mentoring scheme

Encourage employees suffering in silence to come forward and ask for help because what you don’t know, you can’t help with. A mentoring programme can offer a range of tailored advice and support for anyone who may be suffering with anxiety, mental health or any other form of learning difficulty in the workplace, not just dyslexia.

2. Diagnostic assessment

Diagnostic assessments can be truly valuable in understanding an employee’s specific needs and one person with dyslexia will not necessarily be affected the same way as someone else with dyslexia.

3. Create dyslexia friendly material

Once you know the best way to support your employee, then you can start to tailor how you work with them, including creating dyslexia friendly material. This may be something as simple as using an easily readable font such as Arial or using headings to create structure and to avoid background patterns or pictures that could easily be a distraction from the text.

4. Adapt your communication style

Communicate with employees in the right way so if the individual is a visual learner, you could work using a mind map or flow chart. Remember, everyone works differently, so ask the individual what works best, to ensure you get the most out of them.

5.Training

To ensure that any individual struggling with dyslexia continues to flourish in the workplace, ongoing support is usually recommended. The British Dyslexic Association and the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre offer a range of services to ensure that the right support and advice is given to both business leaders and employees.

6. Assistive technology

There are several technological solutions that can make work easier for those with dyslexia such as speech recognition software which allows speech to be converted into text, and vice versa, cutting out the task of reading and writing which can often take much longer for a dyslexic employee.

7. Raise awareness

Symptoms associated with dyslexia can seem like a hindrance at work, however, those with dyslexia often have additional qualities that other team members do not have which may be extremely beneficial to your organisation. Consider running a dyslexia awareness course for all staff to help clarify any misconceptions about dyslexia and help to make all employees feel comfortable in dealing with it.

8. Alternative workspace

Loud and busy environments can make it hard for workers with dyslexic to concentrate. It can be beneficial to offer alternative work spaces such as use of a meeting room to help the employee focus. If this is not possible, then providing headphones or earplugs can be a useful alternative.

9. Encourage the use of calendars and alarms

Often dyslexics can benefit from seeing things more visually, so using calendars and alarms can help to track time in a more visual way. In turn, this will help employees stay on schedule, and help them to plan their day and week.

10. Specialist stationery

Finally, traditional stationery is not always suitable for dyslexics. Black text on white paper for example, can be problematic as the whiteness can be dazzling and make it harder to read.  Paper of softer tones like yellow or pink may be preferable. As well as thicker pens, like gel pens which allow a team member to better understand their writing.

Summary

If an employee is struggling with his or her work, rather than jumping to assumptions that it is related to poor performance or misconduct, open the dialogue with the employee and where an individual has dyslexia, accept that everyone works differently and adjustments may need to be made so that they are able to reach their full potential.  Employees are more productive when they have the correct support mechanisms in place. For further advice on dyslexia or any other disability related query which may be impacting the performance of your employees, contact DOHR on 01923 504 100.

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