Why should I support employees with hearing loss?
Hearing loss can make people feel isolated at work, prevent them from fulfilling their potential and even force them to leave employment altogether. But with the right support, hearing loss doesn’t have to be a barrier in the workplace.
Don’t lose valuable employees
You can avoid losing employees because of hearing loss by being flexible in your approach, offering support and making small changes to the working environment.
Remember, if a member of staff leaves because of hearing loss, you lose all of their knowledge, skills and experience. Plus, recruiting and training a replacement can be very expensive and time-consuming.
As the workforce gets older, it’ll become more and more important for you to make sure that hearing loss doesn’t cause experienced staff to leave.
What are my legal responsibilities?
As an employer, you have some legal obligations around supporting your employees with hearing loss. Under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland), employers are required to make 'reasonable adjustments' for people who are disabled because of hearing loss.
Reasonable adjustments could include:
- adjusting the layout of a meeting room and using good lighting to help the person with hearing loss lipread
- modifying a job to take the needs of a person with hearing loss into account.
- moving a person with hearing loss to an office with good acoustics
- providing communication support for meetings, such as speech-to-text reporters
- installing equipment for employees with hearing loss, such as amplified telephones and flashing-light fire alarms
- providing a portable hearing loop, or other listening device, for employees with hearing loss to use during a training course away from the office
- giving employees time off for their audiology appointments.
If an employee, or prospective employer, has a relatively minor hearing loss and it doesn’t affect their day-to-day life, it’s unlikely that you’ll be required to provide support under the Act. But if they ask for support, it’s likely that some simple changes will benefit you both.
What about employees who develop hearing loss?
Most people slowly lose their hearing as part of the natural ageing process. But the sooner someone has their hearing tested, the sooner they can get help and the less impact it will have at work.
You can help your employees to identify hearing loss early on and take steps to address it:
- Provide a hearing check for your staff as part of any annual health screening you might offer. You can also signpost your staff to our Action on Hearing Loss Hearing Check, which can be carried out over the telephone or online.
- Reassure staff that if they develop hearing loss, it won't mean unequal treatment in the workplace, and that you'll help them to get the support they need. This should be explained in your company’s policy on supporting people with a disability.
How can I make sure I'm offering the right support?
A simple way to find out what support an employee with hearing loss needs is to arrange a workplace assessment. The consultant will research the most appropriate and cost-effective support and equipment for your employee, and suggest some changes that you can make.
The assessment and the costs for the support and equipment that your employee needs can often be paid for through the government scheme Access to Work.Find out more about arranging employee assessments and solutions.
Read about our campaign Working for change