Employers’ Law editor’s comment – disability

The definition of what constitutes a disability has perplexed employers for years as they grapple to keep up with evolving case law on the subject. Clearly, there are still grey areas. And our survey of Employers’ Law readers earlier this year showed that you found it one of the most frustrating areas of employment law.

Certainly the number of people classified as ‘disabled’ for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) has rocketed in recent years and looks set to increase further. Take dyslexia for example.

New research by The Learning People shows that there are a staggering two million undiagnosed dyslexics in Britain. Dyslexia affects about 10% of the UK population – 4% severely. The survey also revealed not only a worrying lack of understanding about dyslexia in Britain, but more importantly, that many Britons today have a prejudiced view of dyslexia and dyslexic people.

The research comes hot on the heels of a recent decision (reported in September’s issue of Employers’ Law, p9) by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that a Metropolitan Police officer with mild dyslexia was ‘disabled’ in the eyes of the law.

In addition, the British Dyslexia Association claims that it has been receiving an increasing number of calls to its helpline from dyslexic employees relating specifically to discrimination issues. Can you honestly say that you know how to adjust your practices to ensure they are compliant with the DDA and support dyslexic individuals?

The good news for employers is that the British Dyslexia Association has launched a code of practice to help employers support dyslexic staff. It provides advice on supporting workers with dyslexia as well as guidance on policies and procedures relating to the DDA.

But dyslexia is just one of the many disabilities that may catch you out under the law. So it’s essential that you regularly revisit your policies and practices and consider all aspects of disability discrimination.

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