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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 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 not too long ago.  

Throughout Neurodiversity Celebration Week, I spent a while reflecting on my observe as an employment lawyer. Had been there any areas of my work that weren’t notably neurodiversity-friendly? Might I enhance issues for neurodiverse shoppers? 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 are feeling? How wouldn’t it 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 elements of interacting with the world and different folks.  

It has grow to be a collective time period for situations corresponding to autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. The phrase was an try to reframe the narrative away from the unfavorable connotations that the situations had been pathological problems needing to be remedied. Contemplate it as simply one other facet of range. 

I acquired a analysis of autism a few years in the past. It was a shock on the time. However that was on account of my very own perceptions of what autism meant, little question 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 area 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 way in which through 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 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 way in which dyslexia formed his strategy to creating services and products at Virgin by specializing in brief, 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 1 in seven workers. Probably, a sizeable chunk of your consumer’s workforce could possibly be alienated by the presence of a text-heavy employees handbook. And if these 15% usually tend to be visible thinkers, preferring diagrams and photos, how efficient is the standard employees handbook for making certain info is absorbed?  

As an employment lawyer, I realised that almost all 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 motive why a employees handbook have to be formatted as pages of steady textual content? I can’t consider any authorized requirement for the contents of a employees 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 consumer’s)? In any case, what could possibly 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 any case, if their lawyer has offered all these paperwork, it have to be to fulfill a compliance obligation of some type. 

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

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 improbable. It communicated the mandatory info in a transparent and concise approach. Absolutely 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, corresponding to 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. Model over substance. A office coverage is a authorized matter which mustn’t contain a graphic designer.  

It may 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 little one may decide 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 possible it’s a collection of numbered graphics and textual content containers explaining learn how to set-up and use the system.  

There’s a motive 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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