Employers must learn to recognise the early signs of dementia, and be equipped to offer adequate support to employees with the condition, according to specialist HR and diversity consultancy, The Clear Company.
According to the Government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (acas), more than 40,000 people under the age of 65 have been diagnosed with dementia in the UK - and almost one in five continue to work after a diagnosis. A survey of HR decision makers in small, medium and large businesses carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research found one in 10 firms had employed someone living with dementia.
However, these figures look set to increase in the coming years as both UK life expectancy and statutory retirement age rise.
Kate Headley, director at The Clear Company, said, “It’s unsurprising that a recent survey by the Alzheimer’s Society found that almost 89 per cent of employers recognise that dementia is a growing issue for their organisation. Many individuals living with dementia are currently in employment, and as we continue to work until later in life, the number of employees with the condition looks set to rise accordingly.
“It’s crucial that line managers and HR professionals learn to recognise when an employee is displaying signs of the condition so that they can offer these individuals the right type of support in good time. A dementia diagnosis does not have to mark the end of work. Many people with the condition are able to continue working, particularly in the early stages, and would choose to do so given the option.
“Aside from the fact that employers have a legal obligation to support employees with dementia under the 2010 Equality Act, it is worth remembering that individuals with some degree of memory loss can continue to offer valuable skills and experience to workplaces, often for several years after diagnosis.
“However, unless the condition is addressed, support systems cannot be put in place - symptoms can often be mistaken for depression or stress.
“Employers must foster a culture of openness and understanding so that staff with dementia can be open about their condition without fear of stigmatisation. Early assessment and diagnosis is vital in preventing problems arising at work. Once leaders get to grips with dementia, they will find that adjustments may be as simple as installing new signage or allowing individuals to stagger their working hours to make their commute more manageable.”
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