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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 passed off 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 observe as an employment lawyer. Have been there any areas of my work that weren’t notably neurodiversity-friendly? May I enhance issues for neurodiverse shoppers? Was it one thing to think about?  

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 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 individuals.  

It has turn into a collective time period for circumstances equivalent to autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. The phrase was an try and reframe the narrative away from the adverse connotations that the circumstances had been pathological issues needing to be remedied. Contemplate it as simply one other facet of range. 

I obtained a prognosis of autism a few years in the past. It was a shock on the time. However that was attributable to 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 ebook entitled Visible Pondering, which describes the best way during which she thinks, fairly actually, in photos.  

This idea of visible considering has been commented on by plenty of 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 method to creating services at Virgin by specializing in quick, 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 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 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?  

As an employment lawyer, I realised that the majority office insurance policies are introduced 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 motive 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 method. 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 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 offered all these paperwork, it have to be to fulfill a compliance obligation of some kind. 

Considerably mockingly, there may be one explicit part of the workers handbook that’s at all times laid-out clearly in bullet level format, with numerous house for the textual content to breathe: the non-exhaustive record offering examples of gross misconduct that would 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 packing containers, icons, and signpost textual content explaining how to answer an information request. It was implausible. It communicated the mandatory data in a transparent and concise method. Certainly that’s the goal of a office coverage: to convey important data that the employee must know. 

There may be circumstances the place a text-heavy coverage is required, which is okay. But when not, do attorneys have a accountability to think about options, equivalent to utilizing flowcharts, graphics or course of maps? They’re more likely to be extra inclusive in direction of the 15% of your consumer’s workers who’re ND. Will we, as employment attorneys, ever point out this to a consumer? 

I may be flawed, however I believe 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 decide it up and begin utilizing it instantly. 

Contemplate the final time you acquire 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 doubtless it’s a sequence of numbered graphics and textual content packing containers explaining how you can set-up and use the system.  

There’s a motive 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?  

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