Weekly dilemma: Dyslexia

One of my employees takes a long time to write reports and the end result is poorly expressed. It has been suggested that they are dyslexic. I am reluctant to promote this individual, but am I on safe ground?

The recent case of Paterson v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has confirmed that dyslexia can be a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). As a result, workers may be protected from less favourable treatment because of their condition, and you may be required to make reasonable adjustments to their working arrangements to remove any disadvantage. Under the DDA, an employee has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a “substantial and long-term adverse affect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

In this case, Mr Paterson claimed that his dyslexia was covered by the DDA, and that his employer failed to make reasonable adjustments during promotion exams.

Although not an everyday or common activity, taking exams for promotion was not particularly unusual, so these were deemed to be normal day-to-day activities. Paterson succeeded in his preliminary application that he was disabled and will now pursue his claim that his employer failed to make adequate reasonable adjustments, despite the fact it gave him 25% extra time to complete each stage.

This case not only acts as a reminder that dyslexia can be a disability under the DDA, but of the reasonable adjustments that must be taken to avoid a dyslexic employee being placed at a disadvantage.

Although Paterson’s dyslexia was described as mild, it was substantial when compared to the other applicants for the role. You should assess the impact by looking at the effect of the condition on the employee, rather than by comparing their ability with the population at large.

If your worker’s written work contains many inaccuracies, or if they spend an inordinate amount of time preparing reports, you should obtain a medical report to assess whether they are dyslexic, and if so, take reasonable steps to avoid any disadvantages they may face.

Lisa Rice,
Associate solicitor,
Payne Hicks Beach

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