Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is well known to affect children and adolescents, but the extent to which it affects adults, especially in the workplace, is less known. Pam Loch and Julie Edmonds examine how employers can help people with the disease and their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.
It is believed that up to two-thirds of children with symptoms of ADHD will continue to show signs of the condition throughout their adult lives. A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) polling 7,000 workers in 10 countries found that 245 had ADHD.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a group of behavioral symptoms that includes poor concentration, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Adults with ADHD often find that their memory, organizational skills, time management, and overall performance at work are poor. This means that meeting deadlines and storing important information is often more problematic for an adult with this condition.
ADHD cannot be cured, but it can often be treated with a combination of drugs and, in some cases, psychological therapy with the involvement of counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists.
ADHD tends to get better with age, but some people will continue to experience symptoms throughout their adult lives. The difficulty then arises in the workplace with the associated problems that can affect their careers.
ADHD in the workplace
How much ADHD affects a person’s ability to do their job depends on the severity of their symptoms and the type of work they are doing. In the most severe cases, adults with ADHD have mixed employment histories and move from job to job when they experience performance issues. According to the WHO, adults with ADHD lose an average of three weeks of productivity per year and often take more sick days.
In everyday life it can be more difficult for an employee with ADHD:
- stay organized and focused in a meeting;
- manage numerous projects at the same time;
- manage their time, both in terms of arrival at work and in terms of meeting deadlines; and or
- control their emotions.
What can an employer do?
Under the Equality Act 2010, an employee with ADHD can be considered disabled if their condition has a “significant” and “long-term” negative impact on their ability to perform normal daily activities.
In this case, an employer is required to consider reasonable adjustments to the role to keep the employee in the workplace. However, an employee may not be aware of their condition, which means an employer may not be aware of it either. Hence, poor job performance can be remedied without considering this potential disability. However, if an employer is aware of an employee with ADHD, there is an obligation to consider what reasonable adjustments need to be made.
There are certain roles that are more “ADHD friendly” than others. For example, all jobs where you have to move around instead of sitting at your desk all day. However, each position could consider the following adjustments:
- Working flexibly, possibly at home, to avoid workplace distractions;
- Using headphones to attenuate noise;
- Looking at a desk away from busy areas in the office;
- work on specific tasks or projects for a shorter period of time and revert to them later when the employee feels less distracted;
- Encourage the use of notes in meetings so that it is clearly documented what is being discussed and what comments they can make, rather than shouting at meetings;
- Promote the use of teamwork so that all skills are used and those who may find it difficult to organize can be used in different areas for different tasks;
- structure the working day so that a clear plan follows;
- Provide adequate oversight to support the employee and help them manage their time; and
- Employees can delegate work if necessary, e.g. B. Dictate documents that are then typed by another person.
However, employees with ADHD often have above-average levels of creativity and intelligence and can be an invaluable resource for any company, especially in roles where creative flair and the ability to think outside the box are key competencies.
Employers should be aware that employees may have ADHD and need to figure out how to work together to develop coping strategies that can harness the skills of employees with the disease.
About Pam Loch and Julie Edmonds
Pam Loch is the executive director of niche employment law firm Loch Associates and executive director of HR Advise Me, and Julie Edmonds is a senior associate at Loch Associates.