Management

The disability that's coming out of hiding

9 June 2011

Thousands of employees could be suffering from dyslexia without knowing it. But the condition is now gaining more recognition. Denise Chevin reports.

Simon Hodges left school at 16. He had O-levels in art and technical drawing and became an apprentice bricklayer. He had always had trouble reading and writing, and “knew something wasn’t quite right”, but it wasn’t until eight years ago at the age of 40 that he discovered he had severe dyslexia. Despite the difficulties he faced, Hodges went on what he describes as a “tough journey” to get a qualification in surveying.

He is now employed as a senior building control surveyor for a company called HCD. He also chairs the Hampshire Centre of the CIOB, part of the South East Branch, and is very much a man on a mission.

That is to raise awareness of the dyslexia in the construction industry and in doing so help anyone who has been held back by it. “The industry is very much a practical, and hands-on one, and people have been able to go into the trades and don’t have to prove themselves through their literacy skills,” says Hodges.

“But I’m concerned we have some exceptionally talented men and women who are up against a glass wall because they are dyslexic and don’t function in the same way. If we could involve them more perhaps we could give them a greater understanding of what they might be capable of and their ambitions could be realised,” says Hodges, who is looking to the CIOB for assistance.

Stephanie Gould, branch manager of the South East, is exploring how the organisation can help by mentoring those with the condition who might need help to achieve chartered status by linking up with the British Dyslexia Association or generally raise awareness of the help that is already available. ”We want to highlight what is generally a hidden disability — and help people understand that there is much that employers can put in place with very little cost,” says Gould.

Dyslexia is the biggest disability suffered in the UK, with 15% having a genetic predisposition to it and 10% showing significant signs of the condition, which equates to between 7 and 9 million people in the UK, says Margaret Malpas, chair of the British Dyslexia Association.

Dyslexia has been recognised as a condition in law since the 1970s. Many successful people, such as Richard Branson and Richard Rogers, have spoken about coping with it. But it is only in the last four years that schools have begun to look out for it more routinely, says Malpas. That means a generation of people now of working age don’t necessarily know they have the condition.

Though dyslexia is often associated with difficulties to do with reading and writing, it can produce different problems in different people, including short-term memory loss, or in some cases mild Asperger’s Syndrome. Sufferers may find it hard to be able to manipulate and understand large chunks of information, cope with sequencing and time management, or even money management. On the plus side, they are often creative, good at problem solving, 3D and big picture thinking and show great determination.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, firms are obliged to make adjustments to enable those with disabilities to do their job. Simon Hodges, for example, may scan in articles like this one into his computer and get the computer to read it out to him.

It can be easy to make the necessary adjustments, says Malpas. The BDA has set up an accredited training programme for employers and can either provide workplace assessors or train assessors for companies. It works with corporates such as Ernst & Young and PWC as well as many public sector organisations. So far, just one firm from the corporate world, McManus HRD Consulting, has gained the BDA quality mark of recognition for being a dyslexia friendly organisation.

“The more people know about it, the more chance there is of getting those with the condition to realise their full potential,” says Hodges.

“It’s in the industry’s best interests for us to be getting the best out of people. People will work really hard for you if they enjoy what they are doing.”

For more information email helpline@bdadyslexia.org.uk. Or contact Stephanie Gould at sgould@ciob.org.uk. To find out if you may be dyslexic visit www.beingdyslexic.co.uk and click on the Am I Dyslexic? button.

 


Back to basics: Defects, rights and obligations

There is a commonly held but mistaken belief within the construction industry that where practical completion has occurred and a defect subsequently arises, the contractor has the right to return to the site and remedy the defect at their own cost.

In fact, unless expressly stated, the law does not imply this right to return into every building contract.

In a building contract of any size, it is advisable to expressly address the issue of who is to remedy defects occurring after the contractor has left the site and set out a procedure.

Most standard form building contracts include a rectification period post practical completion, which includes the right to return and carry out the work itself at its own cost, and an obligation to return if notified of the defect by the employer within a defined period.

Another misconception is that if the employer chooses to use an alternative contractor to remedy defects, it cannot claim in damages more than it would have cost the original contractor to remedy the defects. In fact, it will depend on the contract, and the circumstances of each case.

It is established law that where the contractor has a right to return, an unwarranted refusal to allow them back on site may mean the employer is prevented from claiming more than it would have cost that contractor to remedy the defects in question.

But in general, the level of recovery will depend upon whether the employer has given notice of the defects (if required) and acted reasonably in all the circumstances.

Where an employer has acted unreasonably, damages may be limited. For example, if no notice is given of a defect during a contractual rectification period, the employer can engage others to remedy it, but can only recover what it would have cost the original contractor to put the defect right.

Where an employer can show a history of unsatisfactory work by the contractor, this will give grounds for arguing that they have reasonably lost confidence in the contractor’s ability, thereby justifying the use of an alternative contractor.

Ultimately, there is no implied term that a contractor has the right to remedy defects. But where the employer appoints an alternative contractor, and seeks to recover the cost from the original contractor, they must show they have acted reasonably, including taking steps to mitigate any losses incurred as a result of defects being present in the works.

By Tessa McInnes, solicitor in the construction law team at Wright Hassall, tessa.mcinnes@wrighthassall.co.uk

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