Do you have left-handed people in your team at work? Some 10% of people write with their left hand, so the answer to the question is likely ‘yes’. High-profile Southpaws include Barack Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. To celebrate Left-Handers Day on 13 August 2022, we explore the workplace challenges and what employers can do to support left-handers in the workplace.
Reasonable adjustments are changes that an employer needs to make if your disability puts you at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people. Being left-handed isn’t a protected characteristic, unlike the 9 protected characteristics set out in The Equality Act 2010.
However, using the social model of disability, it is a society that disables. So, someone in a wheelchair trying to access a building with steps isn’t unable to access the building, but the lack of a ramp prohibits them from doing so. Similarly, many office staples have right-handed designs.
1 in 5 employees experience problems at work because they’re left-handed
For example, computing equipment, such as keyboards and mice, are designed for right-handed people (despite four out of five of the original Macintosh designers being lefties). Stationery is also right-handed, including diaries that open right-to-left or office scissors, which may be painful to use.
A survey by the jobs board CV-Library found that one-in-five employees experience problems at work because they’re left-handed, which equates to 4.5 million staff in the UK. The survey also found that most UK employers (96.7%) don’t ask new employees if they’re left-handed and that only a quarter provide left-handed staff with specialist office equipment and stationery.
While you’re not legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments for left-handers, doing so is part of being an inclusive employer, which can retain staff and boost profits. CV Library found that 82.4% of employees believe that employers have a duty of care to ensure left-handed staff have adequate tools in the workplace.
In addition, research published in Brain gives scientific evidence of some of the benefits and traits associated with left-handedness. For example, left-handed people had stronger links in the regions related to language, so they may have greater language ability.
Adjustments for left-handed people are a good reminder that small interventions can make a big difference to the individuals at a minimal cost. For example, most office workers their day working on a computer, so a left-handed mouse is therefore essential for Southpaws. Workplace ergonomics company Posturite lists numerous models on its site with prices from £15 upwards. Models include left-handed versions of USB and vertical mice and the ergonomic Handshoe mouse.
You can also buy left-handed equipment, stationery and more at anything left-handed www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk, which initiated Left-Handers Day.
The same research published in Brain found a potential correlation between being left-handed and mental health, including a propensity to worry. Unfortunately, mental health is often hidden, but ClearTalents enables employees to self-disclose any support they need without attaching labels.
ClearTalents is a one-stop digital shop for employees. Our simple questionnaire includes recommendations for workplace adjustments such as a replacement mouse.