A Guide To Supporting Autism In The Workplace


The Law Of… supporting employees with autism

According to the National Autistic Society (NAS), only 32% of autistic adults are in paid employment. This worryingly low figure raises questions over whether workplaces have the appropriate types of measures in place to help employees with disabilities, and whether there's more that can be done.

Our solicitor in employment law explains how employers can support employees with autism in the workplace

Deana Bates, Solicitor in Employment Law, shares some tips on what measures employers can put in place for to support employees with autism.  

How Does Autism Affect Employees?

The National Autistic Society defines autism as:

"A lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them."

As people with autism tend to perceive their surroundings differently to others, it's important for employers to understand what types of challenges they face and how they can help them adjust and thrive in their working environment.

5 Tips On How Employers Can Support Autistic Employees At Work:

  1. Raise awareness of what autism is amongst your employees and how they can support colleagues with this disability.

    When we discuss allegations of discrimination in the workplace with individuals, we frequently find that a lack of awareness of the symptoms of conditions such as autism is often at the root of the discriminatory conduct.

    By educating workforces about this condition, and other disabilities in general, employers can help to create more sympathetic and open working environments, as well as support networks for their employees.

    This would also help businesses to eliminate costly discrimination claims further down the line and liability in the future.

  2. Make it clear when recruiting for a position that applicants have the option to request adjustments to the recruitment process to facilitate their disability.

    Employers should consider in advance the types of adjustments they could make when recruiting, in order to make roles in their workplace accessible for those with autism or other disabilities.

    This could include taking simple steps such as avoiding the use of abstract language in job advertisements or interviews, as this could cause unease or confusion for those suffering with autism, as they often interpret words literally.

  3. Consulting with external organisations on the types of support that could be offered in the workplace, such as mentoring schemes.

    You could consider starting a ‘buddy’ scheme internally or have regular sessions with an external specialist to help employees who have autism.

    Whether the support is internal or external, it's important to be extremely clear with employees suffering from autism about what the expectations of their role are. This may involve a more detailed explanation of tasks than it would with other employees and could also require the need for visual examples.

  4. Provide ongoing support for employees with autism and reassure them that they can approach you with queries or concerns without being penalised.

    This could be in the form of regular catch-ups or covert monitoring, to ensure they are being successfully integrated into the work environment.

    Change can often have an adverse impact on those suffering from autism, therefore providing them with support in advance of and during any form of change would be beneficial.

  5. Be flexible with your policies and procedures.

    For example, if there is a report of misconduct and your employee with autism may be subject to disciplinary proceedings, make sure that they know they have the right to request adjustments to the process on the basis of their condition.

    An example of an adjustment could be that they need someone to explain the situation to them in person, in addition to receiving a written invite to a meeting.

How Can Simpson Millar Help My Business?

The more that employers understand about how disabilities such as autism affect their employees, the more measures they can put in place to ensure that their employees are comfortable and secure in their working environment. Being proactive before there is a need to be reactive in situations like this is vital for employers.

If your business needs some help reviewing your recruitment policies or you want to find out more about how you can accommodate different types of disabilities within your workplace, our Employment Law solicitors are ready to help.

We can offer advice at a distance and also workplace training for managers on equality in the workplace. If you'd like to know more, one of our solicitors will be happy to speak to you.

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