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HR guide to dyslexia at work

Bella MacLaren from Dyslexia Action offers some advice on accommodating employees with dyslexia

With Starbucks having been fined in a disability discrimination case after accusing an employee with dyslexia of falsifying documents, Bella MacLaren from Dyslexia Action offers some advice for HR professionals on how to avoid missteps when it comes to accommodating this common, yet hidden, disability.

With the right support disabled people can be a valuable asset to the workplace. For instance, people with dyslexia are often excellent problem solvers and have great communication skills. Businesses often say employees are their greatest strength, so it is worth considering what an employer can do to ensure success in its dyslexia support.

Show commitment

  • Look towards the Positive about Disabled People (‘two ticks’) award; a symbol awarded by Jobcentre Plus to organisations that have proven a commitment to hiring disabled people. There will be standards to meet – such as guaranteeing interviews to disabled candidates who meet the criteria for job vacancies – but this will demonstrate that you are serious about being an inclusive workplace.
  • Consider consulting with disabled employees to ensure that their skills and abilities are being best used in their work. Ask them what they need.
  • Think about joining The Employers’ Forum on Disability, an organisation with more than 400 corporate members. It aims to improve the job prospects of disabled people by making it easier for employers to recruit, retain and develop disabled employees.

Consider reasonable adjustments and develop understanding

  • Show rather than tell. It can help to model tasks and walk them through the requirements. Give new employees time to learn; not everyone (dyslexic or not) gets it the first time.
  • Be careful to present written information well. Many simple techniques can be useful to ensure that text is as accessible as possible. Dyslexia Action has a short, free guide that can help you produce dyslexia-friendly documents.
  • If your employees are required to engage in lengthy written tasks try to limit distractions and provide quiet space.
  • Take time to investigate assistive technology. There is a wide variety of products, from free smartphone apps to specifically-produced dyslexia support packages, available and these can offer invaluable help.
  • Wherever possible allow more time. Often people with dyslexia may need more time to develop good organisational structures and learn new procedures.

Consult – get advice and support

  • Those without adequate support may not fulfil their potential and can become the subject of capability and performance management procedures. This can lead to employees becoming ill on account of the pressure, leaving to find other work, or in some cases facing dismissal. If the individual feels they have been discriminated against because of their dyslexia there is the possibility of an employment tribunal.
  • Organisations such as Dyslexia Action can offer workplace consultations, which offer advice and support to employees, managers and HR functions with the aim of ensuring the worker is able to fulfil their role satisfactorily. Support can also be offered to employers to remove any barriers and facilitate an inclusive well-supported workforce, offering informal advice, assessments, awareness training, coaching and workplace needs assessments.

Bella MacLaren is deputy area manager of Dyslexia Action