Dyslexia and disability discrimination

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There have been several tribunal cases where it was claimed that the employer committed disability discrimination against an employee who was dyslexic that provide useful illustrations of situations that have led to employers facing claims for disability discrimination in relation to dyslexia and in some cases large awards of compensation.

The employees were all affected by dyslexia to the extent that they were disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. The main impact on the employer in such cases is to ensure that, where appropriate, reasonable adjustments are made to help an employee. Many employers are unaware of the nature and full extent of the condition and its possible impact on a wide range of tasks and work-related activities. There also appears to be a lack of awareness in some cases of the extent to which the employee’s difficulties can be addressed by a wide variety of adjustments, many of which are relatively inexpensive and quick to implement.

For example: A small manufacturing company usually hands out written copies of all its policies by way of induction to new employees and gives them half a day to read the documentation and to raise any questions with their line manager. A new employee has dyslexia and the employer arranges for her supervisor to spend a morning with her talking through the relevant policies. This is likely to be a reasonable adjustment.

In Rowles v Taxinvest Group Ltd [2009] ET/2203349/2008 & ET/2200151/2009 the employer failed to postpone a dyslexic employee’s capability dismissal process in order to implement reasonable adjustments. The Tribunal accepted the employee’s argument that the employer should have provided:
  • text-to-speech software;
  • specialist spell-check packages;
  • a recording device to back up note taking;
  • voice-recognition software;
  • a skill-development programme aimed at specific work tasks;
  • technological aids;
  • assistance with checking written work;
  • a quiet place and/or personalised work station so as to minimise distractions;
  • a mentor;
  • a reminder system for timekeeping;
  • the clearer sans-serif font, rather than the standard font used by the employer;
  • a paper tasks book and diary; and
  • an electronic calendar with audio alarm.
These adjustments would not have been disproportionately expensive or hard to implement in practice. The employee’s total award in this case, including £4,500 for injury to feelings to reflect the distress suffered, totalled £17,887.62.

Further advice for employers can be obtained from the local Job Centre Plus or from the British Dyslexia Association.

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