Ensuring fair treatment

August 1st, 2011 by Sarah Green Leave a reply »

At Zircon we continually review best assessment practice to ensure effective selection or development procedures for employers. Particularly relevant these days is how to ensure processes are clear, transparent and fair in respect of those with Dyslexia as highlighted by recent high profile cases (Bid v KPMG: Disability Discrimination Act , 2009) and (Patterson v Commissioner of the Police, 2007). In the first case a candidate with dyslexia claims that she was disadvantaged because of her disability and that a multiple choice questionnaire is not reflective of the requirements in the role of a GP. In the second case an internal promotion candidate successfully claimed that he should have been allowed more time to complete assessment tasks as a reasonable adjustment.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning impairment or disability under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and now the Equality Act (2010). Many prefer to see it as a learning or thinking style that brings with it strengths and many dyslexics are uncomfortable with the stigma that the label ‘disability’ brings with it. As such they may be reluctant to let an employer know that they are dyslexic. So, they need encouragement and support to understand the benefits of letting the employer know.

The legal definition of disability

A disabled person is defined as having “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” They may generally cope well but under pressure may find that their ‘coping strategies’ cease to work. So employers need to make reasonable adjustments to give them the best chance of being successful in their role. This also extends to the selection process and in the case of dyslexia this generally means giving them more time or support in reading through materials.

Why do we need to be concerned about Dyslexia?

Failing to make reasonable adjustments for someone with dyslexia contravenes discrimination laws and leaves employers open to lawsuits. But even more importantly to employers, estimates suggest that some 10% of the working age population in the UK have dyslexia.

Research shows that dyslexia brings with it strengths in creativity, innovation, big picture thinking that can make those with dyslexia, valuable contributors within the work place. Dyslexia is practically defined as a gap between thinking ability and skills such as writing, reading, ordering and organising among others, and many dyslexics are bright and gifted thinkers. So from a positive perspective it makes sense to ensure that procedures do not automatically select out candidates who could be an asset to the organisation.

So what do employers need to do?

There are some very practical steps employers can take to make sure they operate a fair and open process that avoids disappointed candidates having redress to the law.

Whilst it is important to follow standardised test procedures the needs of dyslexic candidates may require you to flex your approach to ensure fairness. Following correct processes and accessing appropriate expertise help to ensure a fair and transparent process. The following practical steps are a guide.

1. Ensure the test is relevant to specific skills and competencies required.
2. Ensure that test policy outlines reasonable adjustments for candidates with a disability. If you are not sure contact your test supplier or consult a Chartered Psychologist for guidance.
3. Specifically ask candidates if they have any disability that requires a reasonable adjustment to the assessment process.
4. Make sure test procedures are appropriate and that candidates with a disability know who to contact to discuss their requirements.
5. Provide appropriate training for all test users and recruiters so that they know what to do when a request for adjustments is received.
6. Ask candidates with dyslexia for a 16+ professional psychologist’s assessment which will give guidance on the adjustments that the candidate requires.
7. If they do not have one you can ask them to complete the BDA online assessment to give you some guidance and agree with them a reasonable adjustment.
8. Adjustments might include:
• more time
• a reader to help them absorb information
• a quiet room without distractions
• visual demonstration of the instructions

For this and any other enquiries about assessment and development within your workplace please call Dr Amanda Potter on 01737 555 862.

Useful sources of information:

1. http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2008/07/30/46942/dyslexic-student-to-launch-discrimination-claim-against-general-medical-council-over-multiple-choice.html>/a>

2.  http://www.veitchpenny.com/employment-updates/employment-update/paterson-v-the-commissioner-of-police-of-the-metropolisemployment-appeal-tribunal-23-july-2007/menu-id-147.html

3. http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk A good source of information for candidates is the British Dyslexic Association which gives clear and accessible guidance.

4. http://www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/workplace-consultation/9ea21896-557a-4187-8403-7c82a2e21f9b

5. PTC14web1.pdf The British Psychological Society’s Committee on Test Standards guidance on testing people with dyslexia

Researched and Written by Catherine Farrant, Occupational Psychologist

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