Neurodiversity Celebration Week was marked between 13 and 19 March 2023, with the annual celebration once again aiming to change the narrative on neurodiversity by challenging stereotypes and celebrating individual empowerment. With important initiatives such as Neurodiversity Celebration Week and April’s Autism Awareness Month gaining greater publicity year on year, the attention of many employers is turning to what can be done to support neurodivergent employees and candidates.
Neurodiversity is widely considered to be an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of individuals whose thinking style and neurological processes differ from the mainstream. This includes those with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, dyscalculia and autism, amongst others.
It is estimated that around 15-20% of the population is neurodiverse, so it is likely that most workplaces will have neurodiverse employees. It is therefore important for employers to understand how these individuals can be supported and championed in the workplace.
How employers can support neurodiverse employees
Neurodiversity could be considered a disability for the purposes of it being a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. However, in most cases this depends on the impact on the individual and, even when this meets the statutory test, they may not identify as disabled. As a result, employers will often not really know for certain whether a particular employee is covered by the Equality Act. Therefore, they should avoid discriminating against employees on the basis of their neurodiversity, and instead seek to make reasonable adjustments to prevent those employees from being at a disadvantage compared to their neurotypical colleagues.
The reasonable adjustments necessary to support employees will be dependent on their specific needs and the nature of their employment role. However, such adjustments could include:
- allowing for short rest or movement breaks throughout the working day;
- being given a quiet working space away from distractions, such as colleagues making phone calls;
- being given extra time to complete certain tasks which are more challenging;
- greater allowance for flexible working and remote working; and
- use of assistive technology such as mind-mapping software and assistive text software.
In addition to understanding their obligations to make reasonable adjustments, employers can support neurodiverse colleagues by providing training to all employees (and, in particular, to neurotypical employees) to help foster a collaborative and inclusive working environment.
The same can be said for tackling unconscious bias. Unconscious bias can be especially common during recruitment and promotion processes and that is why it is so crucial for employers to gain 360-degree feedback from all within their organisation on how they can address unconscious bias and support diversity, across all levels of the business.
The importance of supporting neurodiverse individuals in the workforce (and diversity more generally) should not be overlooked. It is well known that the benefits of having a diverse workforce ripple into all areas of the business, including employee engagement and satisfaction, productivity, profit, innovation and reputation.
The progress highlighted by Neurodiversity Celebration Week and Autism Awareness Month, along with other awareness campaigns, is a welcome indicator that employers and employees are becoming increasingly aware of just how important it is to have a diverse workforce, whether this be in relation to neurodiversity or otherwise.
If you would like any further information on how to support neurodiversity in the workplace, please reach out to our PRM team, or take a look at last year’s insight article on the topic.