Could an employee with dementia still work for you?

Channel 4 has recently aired a four-part series about the UK’s first ever restaurant staffed by people living with dementia.


"The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes" documented a ground-breaking experiment, in which 14 volunteers all living with some form of dementia returned to work.


It was partnered by Alzheimer's Society in a bid to get to people to think differently about employing someone with diagnosed dementia. Over 42,000 people with dementia are under the age of 65, and only 18% of them have continued to work after diagnosis. 


If you've not had a chance to watch it, you can find all episodes and details of the volunteers who took part here.

What are the facts about working with dementia?


If a member of staff is living with dementia and wants to continue working, it is their choice of whether to do so and how long for.


Like any person with a disability, there is employment law in place to protect them from discrimination. There are three facts employers should be aware of:

  • People living with dementia must not be discriminated against for their disability during an application for a job

  • Employers have to make reasonable adjustments to help someone with a disability cope with their work in the workplace

  • An employer should not dismiss a person on disciplinary grounds if the effect on their work is because of a disability

Does an employee have to tell me about their dementia diagnosis?


For some professions there will be a legal requirement for the employee to inform you of any medical changes e.g. driving jobs, working with dangerous machinery, on a plane or ship etc. It will be documented in employment contracts if this is the case.


It is in the employees best interests to inform you about the diagnosis, especially if they would like to continue working. Without you knowing, you can't make any reasonable adjustments that may be required to help them continue to work.


Keeping records of an employees absence or performance could be really useful here, to potentially spot trends that may indicate there's a health concern impacting on work.


If you're concerned that team leaders or managers may not be experienced enough in encouraging such conversations with their teams, consider offering some management skills training to support them.

What would be reasonable adjustment be for an employee with dementia?


There's no standard answer here - it will depend on a number of factors such as the job they have, their level of responsibility and how their illness is impacting their health and abilities.


Self-esteem and confidence will be impacted if an employee focuses on what they can no longer do, as opposed to what they still can do. Consider things such as:

  • Changing/reducing their working hours if tiredness is an issue

  • Moving them to a less senior or demanding role

  • Reviewing their work environment - somewhere quieter with less distraction may be helpful for their concentration.

Our HR Consultants are here to help if any of the points raised causing you doubt or concern. Whether you need advice regarding employment law, or feel your employment documents could do with a review, call us on 01722 325833 or email hr@hjssolutions.co.uk


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