Information for employers
If someone you employ is experiencing vertigo from a vestibular disorder the most important thing you can do is to try to understand what the person is experiencing. The person has no control over their symptoms and your support could prove invaluable.
There are several practical steps that can be taken to help the employee function as normal as possible:
Access to work
An Access to Work grant is money for practical support to help an individual do their job. It’s for people with a disability, health or mental health condition. Visit the GOV.UK website for further information. (External website.)
Open plan offices or large working areas can create bad acoustic conditions which make it particularly difficult for people with a hearing loss. High ceilings, hard floors and surfaces all add to the reverberation of sound around the room. Desks next to windows, against a wall or acoustic screens all aid in cutting down the noise ‘bouncing’ around the room. As an effect of this concentration levels improve through less distraction.
To improve communication the distance between you and the person with a hearing loss should only be four to six feet. This enables lipreading to occur alongside observations on body language and facial expressions. The lighting needs to be good so as not to throw a shadow across the speaker’s face.
Your employee may be embarrassed by their condition and they need help to build confidence to ensure a normal lifestyle. A inappropriate comment regarding dizziness or loss of hearing may dismantle months of confidence building. Your employee needs to be comfortable discussing any issues. Ensure time at one-to-one sessions to discuss any issues and ensure you are both getting the best results.
If possible, try to provide a work environment free of patterned carpets and walls as these can affect people suffering from vertigo. In addition, try to provide an alternative to fluorescent lighting as they produce a flicker which can have an adverse effect on sufferers of Ménière’s disease.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits, amongst other things, discrimination of disabled people in employment and requires the employer to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for a disabled person or employee if they are at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a non-disabled person.
Your employee may not be able to hear the fire alarms in the building. As part of the action plan, ensure they know when the test days are and at what time to avoid concern. If possible, equip their working area with visual indicators as well as audio alarms. If you are in any doubt consult your local Fire Department who should be able to advise you further in guaranteeing your employees’ safety.
Where possible, implement flexible working for the employee, such as modified or part-time hours, a flexible leave schedule or working from home.
Walking up and especially down stairs can bring on dizzy spells; access to lifts or ground floor desk space can help your employee.
Your employee will pick up around 30% of the words you speak via lipreading. To make this easier for your employee, they need to see your lips. Covering your mouth with your hand, smoking, eating, drinking or even facial hair makes this difficult. The best way improve this, is to request feedback from your employee at one-to-one sessions.
The employee’s colleagues may also benefit from this information.
By implementing relaxation the fear of the symptoms can be reduced. Most people with a vestibular disorder understand that panic negatively affects the way they handle an attack of vertigo. Techniques such as simple breathing exercises or muscle relaxation reduce extra symptoms. In the workplace, many employers now offer their staff on-site relaxation classes, such as massage and reflexology.
The nearer the better and, preferably, on the same floor. Fresh water dispensers are excellent for all staff and are more convenient for someone with a vestibular disorder; particularly if they have to take their medication.
Amplified phones can be a great asset for someone with a hearing loss. They aid by giving amplification and some improvement on clarity. Another key element lies in the fact that most amplified phones accept appliances such as headsets and extra earpieces. Visit Action on Hearing Loss or BT (external websites) for more information.