Does dyslexia count as a disability?

Daniel Carey Wellbeing

Dyslexia is a life long condition that affects around 10% of adults in the UK with many people with the condition being undiagnosed. Dyslexics have trouble processing and remembering information they see and hear. This can affect their learning and literacy skills. It has different levels of severity and it can affect people in different ways. [More on dyslexia]

A case hit the headlines in February this year, concerning a lady who worked as a supervisor of a coffee shop. As part of her job role she was required to manually record refrigerator and water temperatures at specific times on a duty roster. Having recorded that information incorrectly, her employer accused her of falsifying vitally important documents and subjected her to disciplinary proceedings for misconduct. However it turns out that the lady who struggles with reading, writing and telling the time was in fact dyslexic, a fact that she had made clearly known to her employer. 

dyslexiaThe matter progressed to disciplinary proceedings where she reminded her employer about her condition and explained that her dyslexia can mean she easily makes mistakes of this nature, i.e. there was a genuine reason for the incorrect figures on the roster and she wasn’t falsifying documents as claimed. Rather than looking for ways to support her, her employer gave her less important duties – in other words a demotion – and told her she needed to retrain.

As the lady felt that the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments, she claimed disability discrimination at the tribunal. As her employer had done nothing whatsoever to support her and went straight to a disciplinary course of action, the tribunal found the employer to have victimised her over her disability and found in her favour. The case was subsequently adjourned to see if the parties could reach an agreement on appropriate compensation.

So does mean that dyslexia is always a disability? The answer appears to be ‘No’. Under the Equality Act 2010 dyslexia is certainly capable of amounting to a disability but in order to do so its severity must have a substantial adverse effect on the individual’s normal day-to-day activities – it all comes down to the degree to which the condition affects the individual. An extreme case of dyslexia will certainly count as a disability, but a person who has the condition mildly may not meet the legal test.

Therefore…

The lesson to be learned from this is that you should never attempt to assess the level of Dyslexia yourself as it requires specialist advice. If you have an applicant or existing member of staff who discloses that they are dyslexic, you can seek advice, guidance and support on what you should and can do from the British Dyslexia Association. They have many free resources available to you, including advice on how to best make reasonable adjustments in your workplace for those suffering from this condition.

In summary…
  1. Dyslexia is not automatically a disability but is capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010.
  2. In order to be a disability the condition must have a substantial adverse effect on the individual’s normal day-to-day activities.
  3. If you need further information, advice and access to resources, they are available free from British Dyslexia Association.
Further reading…
  • Carrie M. King, who is the editor of the Journal by Jobspotting has written a very helpful article “Dyslexic? Here’s How To Make Your Office Life Easier” which you can read here.
  • A list of reasonable adjustments

About the Author

Daniel Carey

I am a partner with Bentleigh & Cavanaugh, a professional practice providing business clients with IAG, support & resources to drive business improvement & development. I am retained by a number of organisations in a management capacity to help them manage their business dynamically, taking advantage of and combining current management techniques and the latest technologies to help them develop and grow. I'm always up for an exploratory coffee if you want to discuss anything to do with management, business growth marketing or networking (or motorbikes and huskies) I'm one of the founders of Business & Management Wessex, and I'm proud to serve on the regional board of the Chartered Management Institute of which I've been a member for 15 years.