Embrace neurodiversity in the workplace

Eleanor Rogers

Solicitor

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November 30, 2023

Or risk falling foul of equality legislation warns employment lawyer

With an estimated 3.3 million dyslexic adults in the UK workforce, many organisations are now adopting more inclusive processes to accommodate neurodiverse individuals. All employers should be aware of their obligations to make reasonable adjustments under existing equality legislation.

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects individuals in different ways, including organisation, memory and processing skills. It is not routinely diagnosed at school, leading to high levels of undiagnosed dyslexic people in the workplace. Many use coping strategies which can also mask the condition.

Eleanor Rogers, a solicitor specialising in employment law with Furley Page, said: “Dyslexia can be difficult to spot and no two experiences of dyslexia are necessarily the same. It is important that employers do more to support and empower neurodiverse employees, as well as broadening their recruitment processes to be more inclusive.

“Dyslexia, along with other forms of neurodiversity such as autism, has long been recognised by Employment Tribunals as a possible disability. This can give dyslexic individuals protection under the Equality Act 2010. To be protected, 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. It is essential that employers understand their obligations to make reasonable adjustments to avoid falling foul of the law.”

Employers are required to make adjustments that are reasonable, such as providing assistive technologies like speech-to-text software or allowing extra time for tasks involving processing lengthy documents. Often the adjustment can be very small but provide significant benefits to the employee.

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 improve their working life.

Eleanor continued: “In recent years, there has been increased focus on employers to ensure 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.

“Ensuring neurodiversity among a workforce brings significant benefits, and many large organisations, from GCHQ to Tesco, now actively recruit dyslexic individuals. Organisations now recognise the benefits and creativity that ‘dyslexic thinkers’ bring to the workplace, while professional networking site LinkedIn has added “Dyslexic Thinking” to its list of vital skills.

“By training staff, employers can increase awareness and understanding of neurodiversity, including dyslexia. An open and understanding culture should help ensure potential issues are constructively addressed before an individual encounters difficulties at work.”

For advice on making your recruitment and other processes more dyslexia-friendly, as well as practical advice on dealing with any specific cases, contact Eleanor Rogers by calling 01227 763939.