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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 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? 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 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 elements of interacting with the world and different folks.  

It has turn out to be a collective time period for situations resembling autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. The phrase was an try and reframe the narrative away from the unfavorable connotations that the situations have been pathological issues needing to be remedied. Think about 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 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 amenities for livestock. One in all her theories is that autistic individuals are extra more likely to be visible thinkers. She has even written a e book entitled Visible Considering, which describes the best way wherein she thinks, fairly actually, in footage.  

This idea of visible considering has been commented on by quite a lot 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 strategy to creating services at Virgin by specializing in quick, concise slogans that resonate instantly. Principally, dyslexia helps him reduce out the waffle.

Written insurance policies within the office 

Some estimates counsel 15% of adults are ND. That interprets to 1 in seven workers. Doubtlessly, 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 footage, how efficient is the normal workers handbook for making certain data is absorbed?  

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 purpose why a workers handbook should be formatted as pages of steady textual content? I can not consider any authorized requirement for the contents of a workers 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 may very well 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 should be to fulfill a compliance obligation of some kind. 

Considerably satirically, there’s one specific part of the workers handbook that’s at all times 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 would represent dismissal. Attorneys at all times 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 a knowledge request. It was improbable. 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 is perhaps circumstances the place a text-heavy coverage is required, which is okay. But when not, do legal professionals have a accountability to think about alternate options, resembling 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 legal professionals, ever point out this to a consumer? 

I is perhaps incorrect, however I believe 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 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. 

Think about the final time to procure 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 collection of numbered graphics and textual content containers explaining easy methods to set-up and use the system.  

There’s a purpose 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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