An Employment Tribunal decision has once again cast the spotlight on dyslexia in the workplace. It should act as a reminder to businesses that they must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with dyslexia and other disabilities throughout their employment.
In this case, a manager at Lloyds Bank was dismissed for using a racial slur during a race education training workshop. Having raised a question during the workshop on what staff should do when the ‘n-word’ is used and directed at a black colleague, the manager found himself the focus of a racism investigation and was dismissed.
The manager, who had worked for Lloyds Bank for 26 years, said the ‘n-word’ in full during the workshop, immediately apologising for the offensive term, saying he had asked the question “without malice”.
It emerged during the Tribunal hearing that the manager’s dyslexia often resulted in him blurting out comments “in the heat of the moment”. It also emerged that throughout the training session participants were encouraged to speak freely and to “learn and be clumsy”.
This manager was, however, dismissed from his role.
The Tribunal found in the manager’s favour, saying that whilst the use of the word had been “ill-judged”, there was “no intention to cause hurt”. The Tribunal also said that the manager’s comment had involved a “well-intentioned relevant question”.
The Tribunal’s judge, Tamara Lewis, recognised that the manager’s dyslexia “made it harder to formulate his question about the use of the n-word, which in turn led him to use the n-word in full”.
Dyslexia in the workplace
The British Dyslexia Association estimates that between 10% and 15% of the UK population has dyslexia and associated learning difficulties. There is a widespread misconception that dyslexia just affects the ability to read and write. It is not that straightforward, affecting people in many different ways, making it often hard to recognise and diagnose.
Dyslexia is covered by the Equalities Act 2010, which defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial impact negative effect on an individual’s ability to do normal daily activities.
Disability discrimination protection has an unique feature in that it requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments for employees with dyslexia.
The British Dyslexia Association recommends that businesses create a dyslexic-friendly work environment, stressing that this need not involve considerable expense. The Association recognises too that this will benefit customers or clients who may also be dyslexic.
Simple steps may include greater awareness of dyslexia across the organisation, a flexible and supportive approach, the introduction of assistive technology and changing communication methods. Video and audio communications may offer alternatives to printed documents.
It is also important that employers talk to staff with dyslexia to discuss how any specific measures might be adopted to make their work lives easier and ultimately more productive.
If they do not, employers can all too easily find themselves facing allegations of discrimination and like Lloyds Bank, in an Employment Tribunal.
Contact our Employment Solicitors
Rhian Radia is a Partner and Head of the Bishop & Sewell Employment team. For initial advice or to arrange a meeting the Employment team, please email email@example.com or call on 020 7631 4141
The above is accurate as at 26 July 2023. The information above may be subject to change.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.