As a person who stammers, you have the right to ask for what are known as 'reasonable adjustments' — ways in which your job can be made easier.
Your potential or current employer has a duty of care to meet your needs where possible. Stammering can be seen as a disability and adjustments in the workplace are ways to prevent disabled people being put at a disadvantage.
Different adjustments are appropriate for different people, and the employer and person who stammers should normally discuss what will be helpful. In the case of a job interview, it is a good idea to arrange any adjustments in advance. Here are some examples of possible reasonable adjustments to help people who stammer, divided into different areas:
- Additional time or no time limit for interviews.
- Option to take notes into interviews.
- Allow written responses and/or written alternatives to oral tests or presentations.
- Face-to-face interview offered as an option instead of a telephone interview.
On the job
- Option to work flexibly and from home when speech is difficult.
- Option to have 'non-speaking days', where interaction is predominantly via email or online tools.
- Mentor or senior champion to check in with and reverse mentor.
- Understanding that good communication skills are much wider than just fluency.
Using the telephone
- Option to swap phone work for emails with a colleague.
- Flexibility around the use of scripted phone conversations.
- A private place to make phone calls.
- Exemption from phone ‘mystery shopping’ exercises.
I decided to try rewording the opening line to make calls less difficult for me. My employer was understanding and receptive to my needs.
Meetings and conference calls
- The Chair to introduce everyone in the meeting, rather than relying upon individuals to introduce themselves.
- Option to ask questions or make comments using chat functions on conference calls.
- The Chair to agree with the person who stammers a system for contributing to a meeting (eg by raising a hand). This system will be applicable to everyone.
- Additional time to talk in meetings.
- Permission to be quiet in meetings and to contribute via email following a meeting if appropriate.
- Avoid back-to-back meetings which can cause over-tiredness.
Seeking reasonable adjustments have enabled me to contribute more in meetings and achieve more job satisfaction by being able to demonstrate my effectiveness.
- Not being forced to give training or lead sessions.
- Option to present with a colleague or in a group.
- Option to practise presentations in front of small group.
- Disability leave to attend speech therapy or related therapy.
- Option to ask for speech therapy costs to be covered by the employer.
We've put together 19 suggested reasonable adjustments to consider at work which you can download below and talk through with your employer. You have to agree what's reasonable given the circumstances. If you haven't got a form available at work, then feel free to use the template form, also available to download below. Read the legal advice first though – what may be reasonable in one instance may not be in another.
Visit the website stammeringlaw.org.uk for a wealth of information on stammering and UK disability discrimination law.