How To Get The Best Out Of A Dyslexic Employee

Peninsula Team

April 20 2012

“I have an employee who is dyslexic, but he did not reveal it in his application form or at interview. We have found that his reading, writing and communication skills are a concern, and these are unfortunately an important part of his job. However, he shows willingness to perform and his commitment cannot be faulted. Firstly, is there anything I should be doing to assist the individual so that he finds it easier to do his job? Secondly, am I allowed to ask medical health questions at interview, so in future we can determine whether an individual needs extra assistance?”

As your employee is dyslexic, he is protected under disability discrimination law, which, since 1st October 2010, is covered by the Equality Act 2010. A disabled person is someone who has "a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities." Substantial is defined as ‘more than trivial’. Disability discrimination legislation prohibits you, as an employer, from discriminating against disabled employees or treating disabled employees less favourably. So, even if your employee’s dyslexia had been disclosed at interview, this would not have permitted you to refuse employment. 

It is your duty, as an employer, to make reasonable adjustments to your employment arrangements if these disadvantage a disabled employee in comparison to a non-disabled person. This goes beyond simply avoiding treating disabled workers and job applicants unfavourably and means taking additional steps to benefit disabled workers to which non-disabled workers and applicants are not entitled. Assessing your ability to make reasonable adjustments and making those adjustments accordingly must be your first step when dealing with an employee whose performance is affected by their disability. You only need to do what is ‘reasonable’, but ‘reasonable’ is not defined in legislation, so it is dependent on your capability as an employer and each case is viewed individually. Cost alone might not be enough to make an adjustment not ‘reasonable’. Adjustments for dyslexic people can be simple and inexpensive and may also be a benefit to other employees. A willingness to be flexible is the most important thing. For adjustments to be made, you employee will need to disclose details of his difficulties.
Potential employees do not need to reveal information about their disability at any point during the recruitment process and you generally cannot ask questions about health before making a job offer. However, there are some exceptions to these limits, such as to find out whether the potential employee can take part in certain parts of the recruitment process, to monitor diversity, to decide whether the potential employee can carry out an essential part of the job, or if it is a requirement that the new employee is disabled for the purpose of the job. Once you have made a job offer, you can make other enquiries about health or disability and this will help you in assessing the need to make reasonable adjustments.

For any further information regarding disabilities, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

Suggested Resources