Dyslexic Helpline Worker Unfairly Dismissed

Dyslexic Helpline Worker Unfairly Dismissed


  • Date: Tuesday 18th June 2019
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Shelter, the homelessness charity, was recently ordered to pay £28,000 to an employee who was employed by them for three years.

Initially covering phones, James Bulloss moved into a four-week trial role within the web chat team, being told that if he failed the trial, he would be returning to the ‘voice’ team.

His manager noticed frequent spelling errors and breach of protocol in responding to chats and was informed by the employee that he suspected he might be dyslexic.

Following a period of absence, the trial continued and Bulloss was told that he would have to improve his grammar and spelling or return to the voice team. As this point, the employee asked for support but did not receive any guidance or advice from his employer. The HR advisor in question wrote in an email to Bulloss’ line manager: “(…) it is strange it is only coming to light now he does not want to go back to shift working.”

When being told that he had not passed his trial period, Bulloss suffered from a spell of anxiety but did not, despite numerous requests, receive any support from his employer on his return to work, until his eventual departure three months later.

Following this case, it is interesting to see what an enormous amount of responsibility was assigned to the employer by the tribunal.

Considering Bulloss did not disclose his dyslexia initially, and that there was a risk of reputational impact by him making significant mistakes when answering messages, one might assume that moving him back to his original role was entirely reasonable.

However, dyslexia is a condition requiring consideration under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore reasonable adjustments should have been considered before declaring the trial a fail.

At no point did the organisation suggest support via occupational health or the national health service. Although a return-to-work interview was conducted, the employer did not enquire about reasonable adjustments to be considered, nor did they attempt to educate themselves about the implications and strategies to live with dyslexia.

As always, we recommend our members contact their HR Advisor at the earliest opportunity, should they encounter any disabilities when speaking to staff. We will be able to advise appropriately and make you aware of your scope of responsibility.

Source: Manuela Grossmann


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