Acas has published guidance to help employers learn about neurodiversity and to suggest changes that can be made in the workplace to better support neurodivergent staff.
Neurodiversity refers to the way an individual’s brain works and interprets information. It looks at the fact that people think differently and have different interests and motivations.
A “neurotypical” person is someone whose brain functions in the way society expects. A “neurodivergent” person is someone whose brain functions, learns and processes information differently. Examples of neurodivergence include autism, attention deficit disorders and dyslexia.
The Acas guidance emphasises that people think differently and that some individuals are naturally better at some tasks and poorer at others and, as the Acas guide points out, employers need to accommodate this difference in practical ways – ways that don’t patronise or disparage individuals.
The guide has practical suggestions to help employers make these accommodations, such as:
- arranging awareness days, campaigns, training or workshops to draw attention to neurodiversity;
- creating an inclusive recruitment process by offering alternative application methods, and training interviewers in unconscious bias; and
- encouraging managers to have discussions with neurodivergent staff to identify appropriate workplace adjustments.
Moreover, creating a more inclusive workplace with adjustments for neurodivergent staff will reduce the risk of employees bringing claims of disability discrimination (being neurodivergent will usually be classed as a disability), as well as providing other benefits to the employer, including:
- providing employers with an opportunity to highlight the organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion;
- empowering staff to feel comfortable enough to disclose a neurodivergence; and
- improving staff retention and morale.
According to Acas, there is still a lack of understanding around most types of neurodivergence and misperceptions persist. It does, therefore, make sense that employers should begin to focus more on neurodiversity and consider what steps can be taken to help support their neurodivergent staff. Many of the suggested changes highlighted in the guidance are relatively easy and simple to implement, but can be hugely beneficial to neurodivergent employees and the rest of the workforce too.