What does Neurodiversity mean?
Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain functions – how it learns, works, processes and interprets information. Forms of ‘neurodiversity’ include ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Tourettes.
Why do Employers need to pay attention to Neurodiversity?
Most forms of neurodiversity are usually experienced on a spectrum and so individuals can display a range of characteristics and/or behaviours. The severity vary significantly between individuals.
It is estimated that around 15% of the UK population are neurodivergent. Reshaping HR processes and focusing on neurodiversity can give organisations a competitive advantage. Autistic employees, for example, can produce, on average, 48% to 140% more work than non-autistic colleagues, depending on their roles.
A key consideration for employers relates to the Equality Act. A person is recognised as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a physical or mental impairment or condition that is either visible or hidden, that has a substantial (more than trivial) and long-term (12 months or longer) impact on their ability to do normal daily activities.
A neurodivergent employee or job applicant who meets these criteria will be considered disabled under the Equality Act. If so, employers are obliged to consider and make reasonable adjustments to remove or minimise disadvantages to them as a result of the recruitment arrangements, workplace or the role.
Examples of Reasonable Adjustments
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced some helpful information about adjustments in practice. Many charities provide specific guidance and information that will help employers to understand more about the different forms of neurodivergence and the kind of reasonable adjustments that may be helpful. For example the National Autistic Society and the British Dyslexia Association
Adjustments may include the following:
- Give job applicants the option to disclose any neurological condition at the recruitment stage. Be proactive about discussing potential adjustments.
- Giving clear instructions to reduce anxiety
- Providing timetables or written instructions for tasks required
- Giving regular and sensitive feedback
- Supporting in a new role through a thorough induction process. Assigning a mentor or buddy
- Allowing part time and/or other types of flexible working
- Not asking an employee to take meeting minutes
- Using desk partitions and other equipment to reduce sensory issues such as noise and lighting sensitivity
Employers should ensure that employees are listened to and feel fully understood, are given ample opportunities to discuss their needs, and able to be open and comfortable discussing their condition.
It is important that managers are given some training and understand how to manage situations that may arise. Most importantly do not assume all neurodiverse employee’s needs are the same.
In practice the costs of making reasonable adjustments are often low and as previously touched on there are many benefits in recruiting and retaining experienced and skilled neurodivergent employees.
Without reasonable adjustments a neurodivergent employee may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal for disability discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal in some cases. The costs and time involved in defending such claims are a major disruption to a business. By considering and putting in place reasonable adjustments this will enable you to get the best out of your employees and protect your business.
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