HomeEmploymentNeurodiversity and Office Insurance policies | Employment and discrimination weblog

Neurodiversity and Office Insurance policies | Employment and discrimination weblog

POLONIUS: What do you learn, my lord? 

HAMLET: Phrases, phrases, phrases. 

(Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2) 


Neurodiversity Celebration Week happened between 21 and 27 March. The next week was Autism Acceptance Week, culminating in World Autism Consciousness Day on 2 April. This implies neurodiversity has featured closely on social media lately.  

Throughout Neurodiversity Celebration Week, I spent a while reflecting on my follow as an employment lawyer. Had been there any areas of my work that weren’t significantly neurodiversity-friendly? May I enhance issues for neurodiverse purchasers? Was it one thing to think about?  

On the time I had acquired a case file that included round 50 pages of insurance policies on disciplinary, grievance, and harassment at work. The dispute concerned a dyslexic member of employees. I perused the densely packed textual content. “Hardly dyslexia pleasant,” I mused to myself, observing the irony.  

I attempted to think about being dyslexic and receiving all that textual content to learn as a brand new worker. How would that make you’re feeling? How would it not have an effect on your notion of that employer? 

What’s neurodiversity? 

The time period “neurodiversity” (or ND for brief) was first coined by the social scientist Judy Singer within the Nineties. It refers to a distinction in mind processing that may have an effect on social interplay, studying, consideration, sensory processing, and different features of interacting with the world and different folks.  

It has turn out to be a collective time period for circumstances resembling autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. The phrase was an try and reframe the narrative away from the unfavourable connotations that the circumstances had been pathological issues needing to be remedied. Take into account it as simply one other side of variety. 

I acquired a prognosis of autism a few years in the past. It was a shock on the time. However that was because of my very own perceptions of what autism meant, little doubt influenced by the film Rain Man.

Visible considering 

The American scientist Temple Grandin has written extensively about how her autism is an asset in her specialist subject of designing services for livestock. Considered one of her theories is that autistic persons are extra more likely to be visible thinkers. She has even written a e book entitled Visible Considering, which describes the best way by which she thinks, fairly actually, in footage.  

This idea of visible considering has been commented on by various specialists as being a typical expertise throughout the ND neighborhood. Sir Richard Branson, who’s dyslexic, has spoken about how he is ready to “see” improvements and enterprise alternatives. He has additionally written about the best way dyslexia formed his strategy to creating services at Virgin by specializing in quick, concise slogans that resonate instantly. Principally, dyslexia helps him minimize out the waffle.

Written insurance policies within the office 

Some estimates recommend 15% of adults are ND. That interprets to at least one in seven staff. Probably, a sizeable chunk of your consumer’s workforce might be alienated by the presence of a text-heavy employees handbook. And if these 15% usually tend to be visible thinkers, preferring diagrams and footage, how efficient is the normal employees handbook for making certain info is absorbed?  

As an employment lawyer, I realised that almost all office insurance policies are offered as pages on pages of textual content. Normally they’re typed as 10-point Arial or Occasions New Roman. Every coverage specified by paragraphs. Blocks of textual content, damaged up solely by headings and titles. 

However is there any authorized or technical purpose why a employees handbook should be formatted as pages of steady textual content? I can’t consider any authorized requirement for the contents of a employees handbook to be offered that method. So why do employment legal professionals proceed churning them out when requested?  

Is it comfort (I imply the lawyer’s comfort, not the consumer’s)? In spite of everything, what might be simpler than accessing a precedent, changing the sq. brackets with the title of the employer, and sending it to the consumer? And maybe the consumer feels reassured. In spite of everything, if their lawyer has supplied all these paperwork, it should be to fulfill a compliance obligation of some type. 

Considerably satirically, there’s one explicit part of the employees handbook that’s all the time laid-out clearly in bullet level format, with a number of area for the textual content to breathe: the non-exhaustive checklist offering examples of gross misconduct that would represent dismissal. Attorneys all the time get that bit proper. 

Alternate options to textual content 

In 2018 I recall seeing a pattern topic entry request process within the type of an infographic. Two pages of bins, icons, and signpost textual content explaining how to reply to a knowledge request. It was implausible. It communicated the mandatory info in a transparent and concise method. Certainly that’s the objective of a office coverage: to convey important info that the employee must know. 

There could be circumstances the place a text-heavy coverage is required, which is ok. But when not, do legal professionals have a duty to think about options, resembling utilizing flowcharts, graphics or course of maps? They’re more likely to be extra inclusive in the direction of the 15% of your consumer’s employees who’re ND. Can we, as employment legal professionals, ever point out this to a consumer? 

I could be flawed, however I think there’s a concern that turning office procedures into infographics would seem unprofessional. Fashion over substance. A office coverage is a authorized matter which shouldn’t contain a graphic designer.  

It might additionally make the coverage look infantile. There’s a counter to that: Steve Jobs (himself dyslexic) instructed his designers at Apple to make the iPad really easy to make use of {that a} small baby might choose it up and begin utilizing it instantly. 

Take into account the final time you got a gadget or piece of tech like a smart-TV. Normally, it comes with some type of “fast begin information”. Is it ten pages of unbroken formatted textual content? Extra doubtless it’s a sequence of numbered graphics and textual content bins explaining set-up and use the gadget.  

There’s a purpose why they’ve been designed in that format. They’re aiming to speak important info to a various vary of individuals. Does that remind you of something?  



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