The EAT has held in Paterson v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that dyslexia can be a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and further, that completing an assessment or examination was a normal day-to-day activity.
Mr Paterson, a chief inspector of police who suffered from dyslexia, alleged that due to his condition he was at a disadvantage in comparison to non-dyslexic colleagues competing for promotion to superintendent, and, that his employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments during the promotion exams to mitigate the effect of his condition. The employment tribunal agreed that he was disabled in terms of the DDA. However, it held that, as Mr Paterson's condition was described as 'mild', it had only a minor impact on his day-to-day activities and in comparison with the population as a whole he was not disadvantaged.
This ruling was rejected by the EAT who held that as dyslexia affects memory, ability to concentrate, learn and understand it was clear that this condition had an adverse effect on Mr Paterson's ability to perform in a high pressure exam for promotion. The EAT held (agreeing with the tribunal) that the meaning of day-to-day activity encompassed the activities relevant to participation in professional life. Here the effect of Mr Paterson's condition could adversely affect his promotion prospects and so restrict his participation in professional life. The EAT criticised the tribunal's comparison with the population as a whole and stated that, when assessing the effect, the comparison should be to compare what the individual can do with what he could do without the impairment.
Impact on employers
- If an employee suffers from dyslexia employers should make reasonable adjustments to their working arrangements to remove any disadvantages that may be suffered as a result.
- This case is difficult to reconcile with some previous decisions on the issue of what day-to-day activities are. However, when assessing the impact of a disability, employers would be wise to take into account how it affects the employee in his professional life as well as in activities outside the workplace.