Last reviewed 20 September 2019

David Price, wellbeing expert and CEO of Health Assured, advises on how to support employees with dyslexia.

Sometimes, you find you have a member of staff who is bright, capable and brimming with ideas — but their paperwork leaves a lot to be desired.

If they take a long time to read documents and emails, and respond with messages full of seemingly basic errors, they may have dyslexia. They may not have wanted to inform their manager of the fact, or they may be unaware that they have a form of dyslexia.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexics have difficulty with words. That’s what dyslexia means, being derived from the New Latin dys + lexia. These words themselves originate from the Ancient Greek — an ironically complex origin for a disorder affecting the ability to process language.

Signs of dyslexia

For the most part, dyslexia in children is spotted and diagnosed early: they may have problems learning the fundamentals of the alphabet, or have delayed speech development. Dyslexia in adults, when undiagnosed, can be a little harder to spot. But if someone on your staff is showing some or all of the following, they may be suffering with dyslexia:

  • difficulty in taking notes during meetings or one-to-ones

  • difficulty transcribing or copying, whether from written or spoken source

  • a tendency to avoid reading or writing wherever they can

  • poor spelling, with constant, unpredictable mistakes

  • poor organisation, including a struggle to meet deadlines, an inability to remember dates and difficulty in expressing concepts in written terms.

Are there different types of dyslexia?

Without going into too much detail — yes; there are several different types, such as phonological, surface, and double deficit dyslexia.

These are complicated and technical categories of a spectrum disorder, but if you’re interested there is plenty of reading available on the subject.

Is dyslexia a disability?

Under the Equality Act 2010, a person has a disability if they have a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out daily activities.

Dyslexia is a life-long condition, and the symptoms outlined above have a definite negative impact — therefore it is covered by the Act. This means that people with dyslexia are protected against discrimination in:

  • recruitment and retention

  • promotion and transfers

  • training and development

  • dismissal.

How do I help a dyslexic employee?

Managing a dyslexic employee isn’t as hard as you might think. There are plenty of small, reasonable adjustments that can be made in order to make their lives easier. And dyslexic employees are worth investing in — they can often be extremely creative and think of things others might miss.

Here are a few simple ways to go about managing dyslexia in the workplace.

  • Give verbal rather than written instruction, use phone calls rather than email and consider whether to provide screen reading software; this can really help people who suffer reading problems.

  • Adjust deadlines, provide speech-to-text software and allow all work to be completed digitally rather than handwritten; these can help people with writing difficulties.

  • For those with verbal communication issues, allowing remote work, making their working area quieter and asking for instructions to be read back can help.

  • If time planning is an issue — this is common with dyslexia — making deadlines more flexible, asking for daily progress reports and providing planners/organisers will ease the issues.

If you would like an occupational health report to help you support an employee with a disability or other health matters affecting their work, contact Health Assured, the UK's leading employee assistance programme and wellbeing services provider, on 0844 891 0350.