A startling statistic recently surfaced from the Office for National Statistics – despite 77% of unemployed autistic people being eager to work, only 29% are currently employed.
Hopefully, this figure will improve following the Government’s recently launched Buckland review, an initiative to improve employment prospects for autistic individuals.
You might wonder, ‘Why should this matter to me as a business owner?’. It matters because you could be missing out on a wealth of untapped talent.
Top-tier employers like EY, JP Morgan Chase, SAP, and Autotrader have long recognised and reaped the benefits that neurodiverse employees bring to their teams. For instance, an internal analysis by JP Morgan Chase highlighted their autistic employees’ output was equal in quality but 48% more productive than their neurotypical counterparts.
Understanding the Buckland Review
Sir Robert Buckland is leading the review with support from the Department for Work and Pensions and Autistica, a renowned charity. His recommendations are expected in September 2023, and the review will examine the following:
- Ways to identify and support current autistic employees;
- Techniques to prepare autistic individuals to join or return to work;
- How to adapt work practices and initiatives to reduce stigma and boost the productivity of autistic employees.
What does this mean for you, the employer?
You are not just an observer in this process. The review encourages employers to re-evaluate their workplaces, identify potential barriers, and innovate their ways of working. The potential benefits are enormous:
- Autistic individuals get a supportive platform to flourish and reach their potential;
- Employers gain a competitive edge by benefitting from autistic individuals’ strengths and perspectives;
- Collectively, we boost the economy.
Navigating Autism and the Law
Autism is a spectrum condition affecting each individual differently. The condition is lifelong, and if it “has a substantial and long-term adverse effect” on an individual’s “ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”, it will amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Accordingly, employers must make reasonable adjustments where they know (or could reasonably be expected to know) that the individual has a disability and is likely to be placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to others who do not have a disability.
Empowering Autistic Employees: A Practical Approach
The path to inclusivity begins at the recruitment stage. Here are some simple steps you could take:
- Write clear, simple job descriptions with the necessary skills specified and consider using images;
- Engage with candidates pre-interview, offering necessary adjustments;
- Consider alternative interview formats like practical tasks or work trials;
- Be flexible with interview environments – offer online interviews, and provide quiet spaces;
- Ask questions sequentially during interviews to prevent information overload.
Support doesn’t stop at recruitment. During employment, engaging in regular dialogue with autistic employees and providing necessary training to neurotypical colleagues can foster a healthy and inclusive work environment.
For example, while hot-desking is a modern trend, it might unsettle an autistic individual. So be prepared to offer alternatives like allocated desks and consider developing a neurodiversity policy.
We eagerly await the results of the Buckland review, but in the meantime, these are tangible steps you can implement to support neurodiverse employees and boost your business.
Seek Support: We’re in This Together
To ease your journey, numerous support networks are available to help employers, such as the National Autistic Society and Autistica. They offer invaluable guidance on best working practices and can advise on becoming a more inclusive employer.
Remember, by embracing neurodiversity, you’re not just creating employment opportunities but opening your business to untapped potential and creativity.