What should employers know about Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, to raise awareness of the devastating disease that is Alzheimer’s, with the aim of challenging the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 

There are over 100 types of  Dementia and Alzheimer’s is a form of Dementia. This year (2018) marks the 7th World Alzheimer’s Month.

World Alzheimer’s Day is on 21st September each year and 10th October is Mental Health Awareness Day.

Dementia in the Workplace

People can live well with Dementia, however, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease automatically qualify as a disability so employers need to be aware of disability discrimination. Some employers choose to have an Equal Opportunities policy, Bullying and Harassment Policy and an Anti Discrimination Policy to help prevent discrimination from occurring. It also helps staff to know what they should do if they feel they have been discriminated against.

According to the ACAS website, “More than 40,000 people under the age of 65 have been diagnosed with Dementia in the UK – and 18 per cent of them continue to work after a diagnosis. As the number of people with Dementia is forecast to increase (to over 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2051), and with a greater number of people expected to work later in life, it’s an issue that’s bound to become increasingly significant in the workplace.”

The future is unclear on the matter of Dementia in the workplace, but it is highly likely that businesses will see an increase in employees who have Dementia over the coming years, and this could become an issue because some employees may find it difficult to cope with this syndrome whilst at the same time still trying to perform their work duties. 

Being aware of the symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s and the different stages of this disease will be invaluable to both employers and employees, in order to improve the response to supporting affected employees in identifying their symptoms and moving forward and helping them to live well.

Although memory loss is a well-known symptom of Dementia and Alzheimer’s, some other early signs of Dementia could include: –

  • Loss of initiative;
  • Changes in mood and behaviour;
  • Changes in personality;
  • Problems with abstract thinking;
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks;
  • Poor judgment;
  • Disorientation of time and place;
  • Misplacing things.

With improved awareness, employers (and their staff) can reduce the likelihood of misinterpreting some of the early signs of Dementia and mistaking them for capability or misconduct issues.

The Alzheimer’s Society says that “Employers must be prepared to support … people aged under 65 with Dementia, many of whom continue to work following diagnosis …

“The Equality Act (2010) requires employers to avoid discrimination and make reasonable adjustments to ensure people with Dementia are not disadvantaged in the workplace. Employers are also obliged to consider requests for flexible working from carers under the Flexible Working Regulations (2006).

“Employers should provide appropriate support throughout the journey of a person with Dementia. As the condition advances, employees will require information, advice and guidance about finishing work.”

Supporting people with Dementia is going to be an ongoing matter for employers, but employers do have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for staff with Dementia in order that they are not disadvantaged at work.

Such adjustments could include clear signage, having quiet areas, and installing visual barriers to minimise distractions. They might also include a review of the employee’s current job description, reallocation of duties, a change of working hours, or redeployment to another position within the business.

Of course, at some point in the future, it may not be possible for the employer to continue to make adjustments to accommodate a Dementia employee, and the time may come that the employee will no longer be able to continue with their duties. However, when that time does come, employers should avoid using capability and disciplinary procedures, and should instead follow a ‘dignified exit package and strategy’.

The diagnosis of Dementia will be a difficult time for the employee. However, honesty about options over a long period of time will ease some of that difficulty and help them to continue with their working commitments as much as possible.

If you would like any further advice on Dementia and Alzheimer’s in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or give us a call on 01634 564 136.

Advertisements