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Neuro divergence and work

What should employers be considering with a neuro divergent workforce?

Employers are reporting an increase in the workplace of neurodiversity and tribunal claims as a result are seeing a rise citing the same condition forming discrimination claims. It is reported 102 claims were heard last year which doesn’t accurately reflect the total number of issues being brought in the workplace under the umbrella term of neurodiversity only those issues that could not be resolved.

What is neuro diversity? Is it new?

This is not a new concept however what is clear is there is a knowledge gap with employers and HR professionals alike as to their familiarity with the term and effective management strategies of the condition.

A neurodivergent person is someone whose brain functions differently from the typical or standard way. Neurodivergence can include conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, OCD, Tourettes and others.

The most common cited conditions currently when referring to a neurodivergent condition within the tribunal is dyslexia closely followed by autism and ADHD. All employers should as standard and in light of legal protections have a good sold understanding and training on inclusion and diversity and what this means in practice. What is emerging from these cases is that many of the problems lie with poor management understanding of the conditions and the employer’s responsibility towards those with the conditions.

The CIPD as set out its case of a stronger understanding of inclusivity stating:

“Neurodiversity is moving up the organisation agenda for two reasons. With the business case for diversity as a whole now accepted, organisations aiming to be truly inclusive employers cannot exclude such a significant demographic as the neurodivergent.

What is clear is this appears to be a challenging topic area as many of the conditions are what we call ‘invisible or complex.’

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology went further and researched the topic area in a much more detailed way finding that those with such conditions are often conflicted whether to disclose them to employers at all. This finding highlighted the deep-rooted problem within the workplace that employees feel they may be stigmatised or a mistrust in the ability to keep the information confidential.

Invisible Disability

The emerging thought is that there needs to be a big step into making employers understand the prevalences of ‘invisible’ disabilities and that due to medical leaps in understanding more and more people are being diagnosed with conditions that need effective support strategies.

The legal requirement on employers is to provide reasonable adjustments to employees with disabilities to allow them to function in the workplace effectively without being placed at a detriment. Quite often, employees will bring claims against employers for a failure to effectively assist them in the workplace and often feel that they are being restricted or placed at an unfair disadvantage.

The charity Scope explains: ‘When barriers are removed, disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives’.

In a workplace setting these barriers can be not only a failure of understanding from management but poor implementation of adjustments required. Far too often are employers opting to attempt to manage out those with disabilities under a performance management process citing poor performance when in reality with adjustments they can be a successful member of the workforce.

Adjustments are frequently easy to implement and inexpensive despite the perception that they are expensive and time consuming. A recent survey by the US Job Accommodation Network found 59% of common reasonable adjustments had zero cost impact on the employer.

In addition, technology is making it easier for employers to implement effective reasonable adjustments, in particular assistive tech in the form of iPad apps such as speech-to-text software, is facilitating both the inclusion of neurodivergent people such as non-verbal autistic and dyslexic people. Employers are going to find it more and more challenging to defend a lack of effort when it comes to providing assistive adjustments in the light of technological developments.

While awareness of the issues facing neurodivergent people  is growing it is crucial for employers to implement an effective training and awareness strategy across all staff. A general campaign of awareness is needed so that all staff understand the challenges that can arise from neurodivergent conditions.  We are likely to see a rise in claims as more people become diagnosed and aware of their condition and those employers that do not take a proactive approach in cultural understanding across the workforce will be putting themselves at risk to future claims. If you would like any advice or assistance in regard to making change within your business or organisation or you would like to discuss reasonable adjustments please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.

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