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 just 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 notably neurodiversity-friendly? May I enhance issues for neurodiverse purchasers? Was it one thing to contemplate?  

On the time I had obtained 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 Nineteen Nineties. It refers to a distinction in mind processing that may have an effect on social interplay, studying, consideration, sensory processing, and different facets of interacting with the world and different folks.  

It has change into a collective time period for situations akin to autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. The phrase was an try to reframe the narrative away from the unfavourable connotations that the situations have been pathological issues needing to be remedied. Contemplate it as simply one other facet of variety. 

I obtained 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 question influenced by the film Rain Man.

Visible pondering 

The American scientist Temple Grandin has written extensively about how her autism is an asset in her specialist area of designing amenities 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 pondering has been commented on by numerous specialists as being a typical 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 and products 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 counsel 15% of adults are ND. That interprets to at least one in seven staff. Doubtlessly, a sizeable chunk of your shopper’s workforce might be alienated by the presence of a text-heavy workers handbook. And if these 15% usually tend to be visible thinkers, preferring diagrams and footage, how efficient is the standard workers handbook for making certain info is absorbed?  

As an employment lawyer, I realised that the majority office insurance policies are introduced as pages on pages of textual content. Normally they’re typed as 10-point Arial or Instances 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 have to be formatted as pages of steady textual content? I can not consider any authorized requirement for the contents of a workers handbook to be introduced that approach. So why do employment legal professionals proceed churning them out when requested?  

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

Considerably paradoxically, there may be one specific part of the workers handbook that’s all the time 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. Legal professionals 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 packing containers, icons, and signpost textual content explaining how to answer a knowledge request. It was unbelievable. It communicated the required info in a transparent and concise approach. Absolutely that’s the goal of a office coverage: to convey important info that the employee must know. 

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

I may be improper, however I believe there’s a concern 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. 

Contemplate the final time to procure 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 probably it’s a collection of numbered graphics and textual content packing containers explaining the 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 info to a various vary of individuals. Does that remind you of something?  

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