Home Business How can employers support autistic people in the workplace?

How can employers support autistic people in the workplace?

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How can employers support autistic people in the workplace?

According to the charity Autistica, only around 30% of autistic people of working age are in work, and they face the widest pay gap of any disability group.

CIPD research published in February 2024 found that one in five neurodivergent employees surveyed have experienced harassment or discrimination at work because of their neurodivergence.

Our article, published in June 2023, looked at the Buckland review and the barriers preventing autistic people from entering the workplace and continuing to work. The government published its response to the review on February 28, 2024, with 19 recommendations examined under five specific themes.

Recommendations

What initiatives can help raise awareness, reduce stigma and capitalize on the productivity of autistic workers?

The review recommends highlighting the availability and sources of advice for employers and communicating the benefits of employing autistic people. It also recommends promoting the Autistica Neurodiversity Employers Index to help organizations benchmark themselves against best practice.

What else can be done to effectively prepare autistic people to enter or return to a career?

Recommendations include identifying and promoting cross-sector autism support groups, internships and apprenticeships for autistic young people to gain work experience and skills. It is also recommended that you work with autism charities to ensure that people with autism are aware of the support that Access to Work can provide.

How can employers adapt hiring practices to meet the needs of autistic applicants?

The Equality Act 2010 states that employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to the job application process for disabled applicants. However, many autistic people are unwilling to disclose their autism, especially those who have negative experiences from previous interviews.

The traditional model does not work well for autistic people who have much more negative experiences with interviews, group tasks and psychometric tests. Accordingly, recruitment practices need to be modernized to include practical assignments completed before the interview. This will help autistic people demonstrate that they are suitable for the role. Job descriptions need to be shortened. For many autistic people they are often too long and unpleasant.

How can employers support people with autism already in their workforce?

One of the biggest barriers to supporting autistic employees in the workplace is a lack of understanding of autism among employers.

The National Autistic Society found that 34% of employers thought an autistic person would be unlikely to fit into their team, and 28% said autistic people would be unlikely to be a team player. As the review says:

“These are harmful stereotypes that can affect autistic people's ability to find work. It could make them less likely to disclose their diagnosis to a potential or current employer, thus preventing them from accessing crucial reasonable adjustments.”

The working environment is also important: flexible workplaces, bright lighting or high noise levels can contribute to sensory overload.

How can employers encourage and support autistic staff to develop and progress their careers?

The review identifies a lack of confidence, poor self-efficacy and wrong assumptions about their career goals as some of the reasons why autistic employees could miss out on opportunities for advancement. In addition, there are few examples of autistic seniors who are willing to be open about their condition. This lack of role models affects the confidence and ambitions of autistic people.

The review recommends promoting support networks for staff and using mentors to help autistic staff develop the skills they need to progress.

Interestingly, the evaluation explicitly states that the recommendations have been selected in such a way that they are practically feasible in the short to medium term. No new legislation is needed, nor large amounts of government funding. Rather, the intention is primarily to change the behavior of employers. The aim is to significantly improve autism workforce participation over the next five years by reducing barriers to recruiting, retaining and developing autistic workers.


Hannah Waterworth

Hannah Waterworth

Hannah Waterworth is an employment lawyer in Blake Morgan's employment, pensions, benefits and immigration team.

#employers #support #autistic #people #workplace

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