Recognising and supporting colleagues with dyslexia
Practical information and resources for employers.
Ten percent of the UK’s population are believed to be dyslexic, so it’s likely that all but the smallest businesses will employ some dyslexic colleagues.1
The Equality Act 2010 states that dyslexia is a ‘recognised difficulty’.2 This means that employers must ensure those with the condition are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable adjustments or support.
So how can you recognise colleagues with dyslexia and what can you do to support them as well as creating a culture that encourages disclosing dyslexia?
Sophie Partridge, Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant at Unum adds: “Encouraging employees to disclose if they are dyslexic and reassuring them that you will support them is a positive approach to take. There are many organisations that provide support, once dyslexia is identified, and this can often be funded through Access to Work.”
The NHS defines dyslexia as ‘a learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling’.3 It’s important to note that it is a ‘specific learning difficulty’, meaning that while it causes problems with certain abilities, intelligence is not affected.
Dyslexia affects different people in different ways. Here are some of the common characteristics:
People with dyslexia may also experience associated problems not directly related to reading and writing:
While there may be a tendency to think of dyslexia as presenting a challenge, there are frequently aspects of the condition that can be of real value to a business.
Dyslexia is also characterised by combinations of strengths such as; problem-solving and the ability to recognise patterns that others may miss, plus the ability to think ‘outside the box’4. People with dyslexia can also demonstrate high levels of empathy.5
Dyslexia isn’t a one-size-fits-all condition. Support for staff with dyslexia should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, following a formal dyslexia assessment (see below). Once the nature of the individual condition is understood, steps can be taken to help the employee maximise their potential. These may involve:
A key element of any organisation’s dyslexia policy is suitable training and support for managers. It is only when senior staff are aware of the issues around dyslexia that they can start to identify it, understand their responsibilities, seek input from HR or other departments and move on to assessment and practical support.
A workplace dyslexia assessment can establish whether an employee is dyslexic and identify areas of learning difficulty. This then allows for measures to be put in place to help the colleague.
Assessments may also be necessary to help clarify issues around performance management and absence from work.
Such assessments are normally carried out at work. They involve a range of tests as well as conversation with trained assessors. A report is then written explaining the nature of any disability and making suggestions on how the employee could be best supported.
Unum’s Group Income Protection customers have access to Dyslexia Vocational Evaluations through the Vocational Rehabilitation service, helping you to understand your employee’s needs and offer support.6
The team of Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants (VRCs) can help with many aspects of absence management and advice on supporting employees.
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