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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 occurred 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 apply as an employment lawyer. Had been there any areas of my work that weren’t significantly neurodiversity-friendly? May I enhance issues for neurodiverse shoppers? Was it one thing to contemplate?  

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 workers. 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 grow to be a collective time period for situations resembling autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. The phrase was an try to reframe the narrative away from the destructive connotations that the situations have been pathological problems needing to be remedied. Take into account it as simply one other facet of range. 

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I acquired a analysis of autism a few years in the past. It was a shock on the time. However that was as a consequence 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. One in every of her theories is that autistic persons are extra prone to be visible thinkers. She has even written a guide entitled Visible Considering, which describes the best way by which she thinks, fairly actually, in photos.  

This idea of visible considering has been commented on by a lot of specialists as being a standard expertise throughout the ND group. 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 growing services at Virgin by specializing in brief, concise slogans that resonate instantly. Principally, dyslexia helps him lower out the waffle.

Written insurance policies within the office 

Some estimates recommend 15% of adults are ND. That interprets to 1 in seven staff. Probably, a sizeable chunk of your consumer’s workforce may very well be alienated by the presence of a text-heavy workers handbook. And if these 15% usually tend to be visible thinkers, preferring diagrams and photos, how efficient is the standard workers handbook for making certain data is absorbed?  

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As an employment lawyer, I realised that almost all office insurance policies are offered as pages on pages of textual content. Often 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 cause why a workers handbook should be formatted as pages of steady textual content? I can’t consider any authorized requirement for the contents of a workers handbook to be offered that means. So why do employment attorneys proceed churning them out when requested?  

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

Considerably satirically, there may be one explicit part of the workers handbook that’s at all times laid-out clearly in bullet level format, with plenty of house for the textual content to breathe: the non-exhaustive record offering examples of gross misconduct that might represent dismissal. Attorneys at all times 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 containers, icons, and signpost textual content explaining how to reply to an information request. It was incredible. It communicated the required data in a transparent and concise means. Certainly that’s the goal of a office coverage: to convey important data that the employee must know. 

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There is perhaps circumstances the place a text-heavy coverage is required, which is ok. But when not, do attorneys have a duty to contemplate alternate options, resembling utilizing flowcharts, graphics or course of maps? They’re prone to be extra inclusive in direction of the 15% of your consumer’s workers who’re ND. Can we, as employment attorneys, ever point out this to a consumer? 

I is perhaps fallacious, however I believe there’s a worry that turning office procedures into infographics would seem unprofessional. Type over substance. A office coverage is a authorized matter which mustn’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 youngster might choose it up and begin utilizing it instantly. 

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

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