What businesses need to know about hiring and managing those with dyslexia

Here, Kate Headley outlines the legal requirements for making reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process for those living with dyslexia.

An estimated 6.3 million people in the UK are dyslexic – that’s a significant proportion of potential and current employees living with this disability. Yet it is fairly common to find employers either unaware that candidates or staff are dealing with the condition, or unsure how to handle requests for adjustments to help them perform to their best potential.

This can often be due to a number of factors, from a limited awareness from all parties as to what the company’s stance is on reasonable adjustments and how to make them, through to a lack of guidance on best practice for hirers. However, whatever the reason, employers must take action to accommodate candidates and employees with dyslexia. Here’s what you need to know about hiring and managing dsylexics:

The legalities

First and foremost, it’s important to be aware that as dyslexia – along with a number of other conditions – is listed under the Equality Act 2010, failure to make reasonable adjustments could result in costly employment tribunals. In essence, under this act small business owners need to ensure that anyone with a disability is not treated unfavourably in both the recruitment process and during employment and that the requisite adjustments are made to enable them to carry out their work or complete the interview process.

Adjustments in the hiring process

It’s vital to clarify that dyslexia in no way defines an individual’s intellectual capacity, instead those with the condition may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear. The impact on the individual also varies from person to person. Better understanding of this will help employers and hirers embrace any changes that the business decides to make, so ensure everyone is aware of this definition.

Having clarified just what dyslexia means for the individual, those involved in the hiring process are likely to benefit from some form of training to ensure they are not only best portraying the company during interviews, but also remaining within the terms of the Equality Act 2010 to avoid potentially hefty legal implications. Remember, such training is vital regardless of company size, particularly at a time when candidates of all levels of seniority are now expecting a more personalised and appropriate hiring experience.

While there is no legal requirement for an applicant to disclose the condition, there are benefits to both the individual and the business that should be considered. In particular, by providing a platform that enables the candidate to perform to their best ability, the company can make a truly informed hiring decision and ensure that they don’t miss out on what could potentially be the ideal person for the job as a result of misunderstanding a person’s needs.

Accommodating dyslexic staff

Those with the condition have great strengths to offer the company provided it is identified and the individual receives the required support. By means of example, it is commonly suggested that dyslexic people have excellent visual, creative and problem solving skills – mainly because they tend to view things in a different light to most others. This alternative perspective explains why such individuals often become entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers or enter the arts and entertainment field.

However, as with every other employee, only by providing the right support and creating an environment that enables them to thrive can a firm truly benefit from such a person’s skills. By putting in place a process that enables dyslexic people to request changes to their working environment or management styles, firms will be able to get the most out of the individual and create a working culture that is conducive to greater staff retention.

It’s important to note that adjustments don’t have to be huge, often small changes are required. For example, those with dyslexia often respond better to verbal rather than written instructions and may prefer to use a recording device during conversations. They may also need a quieter environment when working, so a dedicated space in the office for them to work could prove hugely valuable.

It may be that the employee will need a full diagnostic assessment to ascertain exactly what assistance they need in the workplace – it’s important to clarify with any new employee if they have had one in recent years as this may provide a starting point.

It’s also vital to tailor performance reviews to factor in the needs of the individual. These can be stressful for anyone at the best of times, but for dyslexic people, having their work assessed alongside a generic tick list of requirements for the role will instantly put them on the back foot. Ensuring that they receive tailored targets and expectations that are in line with their individual strengths and that reviews include the assessment of the support they are receiving is crucial.

Also see: Why Dyslexia Makes For Great Entrepreneurs

Individuals with dyslexia have a lot to offer a small business, but they may not be able to do this without some form of adjustment in the workplace. By enabling often small changes and accommodating the needs of those with this disability, firms will be in a greater position to make the most of their strengths and better compete with some of the larger heavyweights, particularly when it comes to building a strong employer brand.

Kate Headley is director of The Clear Company.

Further reading on dyslexia

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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