Warning to accommodate neurodiverse employees

29 March 2023

Companies must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate neurodiverse employees or risk being taken to a tribunal and ordered to pay compensation an employment lawyer has warned.

Lucy Williams, an Associate in the Employment team at West Midlands firm Higgs LLP, said compensation can exceed £56,200 in the most serious discrimination cases under new Presidential Guidance issued by the Employment Tribunals.

Lucy’s warning comes after a security guard, Raymond Joseph Bryce, successfully accused his bosses of discrimination after they stopped offering him shifts due to poor punctuality. 

Mr Bryce argued his dyslexia made it 'difficult' for him to wake up early, plan ahead, and read the time. 

A tribunal ruled the employer failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate his disability and is liable for discrimination arising from disability under the Equality Act 2010. The judge said flexible hours could have been offered with greater leeway on arrival times and Mr Bryce is now in line for compensation.

Lucy said: “Although not binding on future tribunals, this case serves as a reminder to employers to put in place measures to avoid discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

“In this case, the tribunal concluded that the claimant’s disabilities satisfied the legal definition under the Equality Act 2010. They had a substantial and long-term negative effect on his ability to do normal daily activities. He was inhibited in his ability to read, write and understand information, and was impaired in his ability to keep to a timetable and plan for potential factors such as traffic and weather conditions. He also sometimes misread his digital alarm clock.

“Employers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to prevent an individual with a disability from being placed at a disadvantage. For instance, that can include allowing additional time for tasks to be completed, allowing recording devices at meetings, or offering coloured paper to aid with reading. 

“Failure to make suitable adjustments can lead to compensation for financial loss, such as loss of earnings, and non-financial loss such as injury to feelings and personal injury.”

The bands used to calculate injury to feelings are set to increase from April 6, ranging from £1,100 for less serious cases, to an upper band of £33,700 to £56,200 for the most serious cases. Exceptional cases are capable of exceeding £56,200.

Other dyslexic employees have brought successful claims against their employers. In 2016 a dyslexic employee sued Starbucks after she was accused of falsifying documents after incorrectly recording refrigerator and water temperatures.

A study also found that there was a 40% rise in employment tribunals relating to autism in 2021, as well as a 31% increase in Asperger’s cases and a 14% rise in dyslexia claims.

Lucy added: “Discrimination claims can also damage employee-employer relations and harm an employer’s reputation.

“Suppliers tendering for business, particularly within the public sector, may also be asked to disclose whether they have been subject to any discrimination claims.”

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