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Autism and Work

Last month, it was announced by the Department for Work and Pensions that the Government had launched a review aimed at helping improve the employment prospects of people with autism.

The review, which will be led by MP, Sir Robert Buckland, will seek to identify the barriers that stop or hinder people with autism from finding employment and will look into ways in which employers can be supported to help people who have autism get into, stay and succeed in work. 

According to data published by the Office of National Statistics in 2021, only 22% of people with autism are in employment, in contrast to 52% of all disabled people.   This wide employment gap is something that the government is concerned about and, as the National Autism Society says, is a “waste of talent”. 

People with autism may act differently to the way others do and this often creates barriers when it comes to finding, and staying, in employment.   The NHS website says that those with autism may:

  • find it hard to communicate and interact with other people;
  • find it hard to understand how other people think or feel;
  • find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable;
  • get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social event;
  • take longer to understand information;
  • do or think the same things over and over.

Autism, however, is a spectrum condition and these are only some of the traits and characterisations that a person with autism may have.  

Although there are many businesses that recognise and are reaping the benefits of having a neurodiverse workforce, there are still a large number of employers who are turning away people with autism due to a lack of understanding and/or acceptance of the condition.   This is something the government wants to change and rightly so.  

The Review started this month and is due to provide its recommendations in September 2023.  It is going to consider issues including:

  1. How employers who are already benefitting from a neurodiverse workforce are supporting autistic employees.
  2. How employers can identify and better support autistic staff already in their workforce.
  3. What support can be given to help autistic people prepare for beginning or returning to a career.
  4. Identifying ways to reduce stigma in the workplace, to improve autistic peoples’ experience of being at work and help them fulfil their potential.

The review has been welcomed by the UK autism research and campaigning charity, Autistica, who wants to see a doubling of the employment rate for autistic people by 2030.

The hope is that review will result in a greater awareness among employers of autism, including a better understanding of the benefits of employing those with autism, and will identify adjustments and introduce initiatives that will support autistic people to find, stay and be fulfilled in work.  

If you would like advice on how to support neurodiversity in the workplace, please get in touch with the Real Employment Law Team.

Photo by Peter Burdon on Unsplash

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