Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Charity urges employers to do more to make adjustments for people with dyslexia in the workplace

Dyslexia ActionA dyslexia charity has called for employers to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace for employees with dyslexia, following the recent disability discrimination case of a Starbucks worker.

Dyslexia Action wants employers to give greater consideration to the importance of offering employees support to ensure that they can fulfil their potential in their role and be an asset to the business.

The charity’s calls comes after the case of Meseret Kumulchew, who won a discrimination case against her employer Starbucks through an employment tribunal. The tribunal found that the company had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Kumulchew’s dyslexia and had discriminated against her because of her learning disability. A subsequent hearing will determine the level of compensation Kumulchew will receive.

Kumulchew was so distressed by the case – she was accused of falsifying documents after mistakenly entering the wrong information on the temperature of fridges and water – that she had considered suicide, according to the BBC. This demonstrates the severe emotional effects that such learning disabilities can have on workplace confidence and self-esteem.

Starbucks is now in discussions about providing more support to employees.

This case sends a message to employers that they must take their legal responsibilities to those with dyslexia seriously, the charity said. Dyslexia Action said it applauded Kumulchew’s courage to pursue her case, to ensure that she was not discriminated against, and to set an example for other cases of this nature.

Dyslexia Action said it wants employers to consider the importance of offering support to employees with learning disabilities. The charity believes concerted effort should be made to gain an understanding of what obstacles particular employees may face and how best to make adjustments for them, so that they can fulfil their role to the best of their abilities.

Dyslexia should not cause problems in the workplace, provided employers have a good understanding of what it is, and, as is their legal duty, make reasonable adjustments. The charity notes that relatively small adjustments can make all the difference, for example; technology to convert text to speech, extra help checking documents, giving good notice for new tasks, creating less distractions in the working environment or training to develop key skills such as time management and organisation.

Stephen Hall, chief executive of Dyslexia Action, said: “Without the correct support, people with dyslexia can suffer a huge loss of confidence and low self-esteem. This is a great shame as those with dyslexia have much to offer in the workplace. Many people with dyslexia work very differently to conventional methods but employers stand to gain great benefit from the different perspective that this brings and ability to think outside the box.”

John Rack, director of education and policy at Dyslexia Action, added: “I think it is very important for employers to ensure that all staff are given the tools to perform to the best of their ability – this is business sense. Where dyslexia is concerned, it is important that companies realise that they have legal obligations to make reasonable adjustments for those with dyslexia. For someone with learning difficulties, small adjustments can be made with little expense and can make a huge difference to their well-being as well as maximising their performance at work.”

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