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Employing somebody with Tourette Syndrome

We know that employing a person with Tourette Syndrome (TS) can sound daunting, but in reality it gives you an opportunity to employ someone with a wealth of skills, talent and insight.

Many people with TS have amazing streaks of creativity. There are no jobs closed to people with TS. People with the condition work as chefs, bricklayers, drivers, computer specialists, teachers and almost any profession you can think of. In fact, with over 300,000 people in the UK living with TS you may already have an employee with TS without even knowing it.

Some people with TS, like with other disabilities, may require reasonable adjustments to help them carry out their daily tasks. To help you best support your employees we have put together the following information about supporting people with TS in the workplace.

What is TS?

TS is an inherited, neurological condition, the key features of which are tics, involuntary and uncontrollable sounds and movements. TS is a complex condition and covers a wide spectrum of symptoms and associated behaviours, including OCD and ADHD. Only 10 per cent of people with TS swear. Each person with TS has different tics and will experience diverse symptoms. There is no cure for TS, but there are various treatments available.

You can find more information in our About TS section, or download our ‘What makes us tic?’ booklet, which explains more about the condition.

Tourette Syndrome and disability

TS is a disability and therefore people are protected under the Equality Act 2010 from being discriminated against because of their condition. All the usual rules about discrimination apply to people with TS.

You can download our TS and disability factsheet to learn more about the legislation and organisations that can offer advice.

Interviewing somebody with TS

A person is not obliged to say on their application form that they have TS, but if they do you need to make sure that they can access the interview and are not disadvantaged in any way. You may find that you notice tics during an interview. Symptoms are made worse during periods of stress, so it is likely that a person with TS will tic during an interview. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their TS and if they are aware of any reasonable adjustments they may need to support them in their work.

Organising reasonable adjustments

People with TS usually are aware of what makes their situation work and so good practice is really important. Talk to your employee about what they think their needs might be and involve your human resources department in the discussion.

The support each person will vary, depending on their symptoms and the job they are doing. For example:

  • An office worker with vocal tics might need a desk in a quiet corner so that they can tic away from other people, so as not to disturb others.
  • An electrician who visits private and business properties may carry a card or letter from their company that explains that they have TS. It might say that if they are making unusual noises or movements it is because of their condition, and can be shown when they arrive at a property so that the customer understands their behaviour.

Be aware that if you are making changes to a workspace or working hours, for example, this may affect a person with TS. Involve them in the planning process to mitigate the effects of the changes on their TS.

Communication is key

TS waxes and wanes and tics change over time, so meet regularly to discuss your employee’s progress and see if you need to discuss other methods of support. If you feel that a person’s symptoms are having a negative effect on their work you should talk to the person concerned to outline your concerns and try to arrive at a solution together. If you need to, you can involve your personnel department who should adhere to all requirements under employment law.

Communication is key and can help avoid a situation deteriorating between you and your employee. However, if you get to the stage that you are finding it difficult to find positive solutions you can contact Tourettes Action for advice and support in dealing with TS.

"People need to know that TS is involuntary. We don't need pity, but some will always need help, support and understanding"

 
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