Neurodiversity refers to and acknowledges that brain function varies for everyone across the population. Neurodiversity is why people’s ability to learn, retain information, think, pay attention, communicate and relate to the world are all different. B P Collins’ employment team advises on what employers can do support their autistic workforce.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”) is the medical term for Autism. Autistic individuals have a different brain function to those who would be described as ‘neurotypical’ and as such autism is a form of neurodivergence. Autistic people have a unique way of thinking and experiencing the world due to their neurodiversity.
Autism is a spectrum condition, with some autistic people sharing characteristics and other characteristics differing vastly from each other. Autism will display itself differently for each autistic person as the spectrum is not linear from high to low, but varies.
With more than one in one hundred people being on the autistic spectrum in the UK, Autism Awareness Month celebrates people with Autism. Considering autistic people as neurodivergent celebrates their differences rather than considering them as deficits, it considers their strengths and abilities whilst aiming to debunk misconceptions around people with the diagnosis.
Common misconceptions around Autism include that:
- Autistic people do not experience emotions.
- Autistic people must either be high or low functioning.
- Only children can have autism.
- Only boys have autism.
- Vaccines are the cause of autism.
How to support autistic people?
As autistic people have different characteristics, the best way of helping an autistic person is by asking them, or if they are not able to tell you, by asking their carer or family.
How you can support an autistic person will depend on their individual needs. For example, when conveying information to individuals who struggle to absorb information, that information should be given in clear, plain English and broken down. If the individual is non-verbal, then assisting them with alternative communication methods, i.e. visual supports will be helpful.
Neurodiversity and the Law
This is an important topic, particularly for employers.
Whilst an employee may not see themselves as disabled, it is possible if they are neurodivergent that they may fulfil the definition of disability provided for in the Equality Act 2010.
“A person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
If someone has a disability, they are afforded additional rights and protection that must be adhered to. Employers must make reasonable adjustments where necessary, and protect the disabled employee from discrimination, victimisation and harassment.
Reasonable adjustments are changes that an employer must make to remove or reduce a disadvantage related to someone’s disability. Examples of common reasonable adjustments include:
- Changes to working patterns;
- Additional systems and support to carry out their role;
- Changes to physical features in the work place, i.e. adding a wheelchair ramp or rails by stairs.
- Auxiliary aids
The adjustments requested by the employee must be reasonable. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of that individual employee and employer, for example the size and resources of the employer and the cost of the adjustment.
The employer must pay for the reasonable adjustment. Failure to make the reasonable adjustment may give rise to a disability discrimination claim.
For further advice on this topic or any other employment matter, please contact B P Collins’ employment team at email@example.com or call 01753 889995.