Understanding dyslexia & its impact in the workplace


Friday 25 April 2014


Janet Rumball


This talk will aim to give managers, HR and H&S staff a greater understanding and awareness of dyslexia and provide a guide for the identification and support of dyslexia within the workplace. The talk will deal with the following broad areas:

  • What is Dyslexia? – its prevalence, cognitive profile, common strengths and weaknesses, the overlap of dyslexia with other specific learning difficulties
  • Dyslexia and the Law – the challenges faced by employers, dyslexia as a disability under The Equality Act 2010, issues associated with undisclosed dyslexia
  • Impact of Dyslexia in the Workplace – a review of dyslexic difficulties, psychological issues, common causes of disputes and the positive skills associated with dyslexia
  • How to Support Dyslexia in the Workplace – the assessment process, reasonable adjustments, promoting awareness, codes of best practice


Janet Rumball is an Independent Dyslexia Consultant and PATOSS accredited Specialist Teacher. She has wide ranging experience in the diagnosis of specific learning difficulties, including dyslexia, dyspraxia & ADHD. Janet provides a full range of consultancy services to corporate clients, private businesses, local authorities, educational establishments and private individuals.

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Q: Should we always seek a professional dyslexia assessment / report or can HR / Occupational Health deal with the majority of cases in-house with some knowledge of dyslexia, but not expert knowledge.

A: Every dyslexic person is different and will have different requirements for support. There is no 'one size fits all' in terms of reasonable adjustments. There are a range of possible reasonable adjustments that have proved successful, but specialist advice is essential to determine the most appropriate adjustments for a particular individual.

Q: The British Dyslexia Association Code of Practice for Employers states:

"In order to offer a dyslexic employee the appropriate support which will enable them to perform at a high level, professional advice should be sought. All employees whose dyslexia has not been assessed post 16 may need to be assessed by an adult dyslexia specialist. Unless an assessment is obtained, an employer may fail to identify the reasonable adjustments he has a duty to provide under section 20 of the Equality Act 2012".

What would be your advice in respect of dealing with an employee with a disclosed diagnosis of dyslexia but is reluctant to undergo assessment for reasonable adjustments?

A: There could be a number of reasons why the employee is unwilling to undergo an assessment and it might be helpful to informally discuss these. The employee may feel that they are going to be exposed or disadvantaged in some way, or feel that the process will draw attention to difficulties that they find embarrassing. It might be helpful to highlight policies on confidentiality (employers should have a clear protocol and treat diagnostic reports as highly confidential documents, with restricted access - usually to HR / Occupational Health and a named line manager).

Alternatively the employee may feel that there is nothing in their current job role that taxes their dyslexic difficulties and that they are not at any disadvantage. However, this situation could change if they are promoted or take on additional duties.

Q: Where can Occupational Health send someone for a specific assessment where there is an undiagnosed problem thought to be dyslexia?

A: There are many organisations (including Posturite, Dyslexia Action and The British Dyslexia Association) that offer dyslexia diagnostic assessments by fully qualified specialists.

Q: When an individual has been selected for a job and then fails to declare they have dyslexia on their occupational health questionnaire, where does the employer stand if they are not aware of the condition until something goes wrong in the workplace?

A: There is no legal requirement for an individual to disclose their dyslexia. However, there is an obligation on the part of the employer to spot dyslexic difficulties and provide reasonable adjustments. The British Dyslexia Association states in their code of Practice for Employers:

"If an employer has a Human Resources department or Occupational Health department, it can be taken that the organisation is sufficiently sophisticated to be able to identify a dyslexic employee, even if the employee has not declared his / her dyslexia or is unaware that he / she is dyslexic".

Q: When an individual has been selected for a job and then fails to declare they have dyslexia on their occupational health questionnaire, where does the employer stand if they are not aware of the condition until something goes wrong in the workplace?

A: If an employer thinks that an employee has dyslexia they should discuss this with the employee and arrange for an assessment by a dyslexia specialist, with a view to implementing recommended reasonable adjustments.

Q: Is dyslexia something that is with you from birth or is it something which may develop even in adulthood?

A: The vast majority of cases of dyslexia are what we call ‘developmental dyslexia’ where the underlying difficulties are present from birth. It is, however, common for individuals to reach adulthood without being formally diagnosed. There is also a condition referred to as ‘acquired dyslexia’ in which symptoms of dyslexia are caused by a significant trauma to the brain. This is relatively rare and can happen at any stage in life.

Q: What if reading, organisation, time management, deadlines, writing letters, taking notes, communication, proof-reading are intrinsic requirements of the job. How far does the duty to make reasonable adjustments extend?

A: These are all areas that singly, or in combination, can cause some degree of difficulty for an individual with dyslexia. However, they are also areas that can often be fully supported with appropriate reasonable adjustments. Many jobs require these skills and many individuals with dyslexia successfully carry out these tasks when appropriate support measures are in place.