Despite an increased focus on promoting neurodiversity in the workplace, only just over half of autistic workers within the UK reveal their diagnosis to HR, according to the latest research from Auticon, a social enterprise whose IT consultants are all autistic.
The company’s survey of autistic adults within the workplace revealed that just 58% of those who are officially diagnosed with autism feel comfortable revealing that information to HR. This percentage is also heavily weighted depending on seniority; line managers are the colleagues that are most likely to speak to about their condition - seven out of ten had done so.
Yet, whilst more senior staff may feel more comfortable sharing their neurodiversity, one in ten autistic workers do not feel they can reveal their diagnosis in the workplace at all.
Of those who had not disclosed their autism to anyone in the workplace, around 40% stated that they simply didn’t feel ready to do so, whilst one in three felt that they may well be treated adversely as a result.
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One in four were hesitant to share their private information with their employer , and the same amount felt unsure of how to communicate their diagnosis to people in their workplace.
It seems that these fears are not unwarranted; seven per cent of respondents had experienced a negative response upon disclosure of their diagnosis, and a societal bias is evident by the fact that just one in five autistic people are in employment currently.
“Whilst it is reassuring to see that a lot of autistic workers are talking to their line managers about their diagnosis, there is clearly still a long way to go to make the workplace a more inclusive space which allows people to thrive,” noted Andrea Girlanda, Chief Executive of Auticon.
“Autistic people often have exceptional talents, enabling them to outperform in areas such as data analytics, cyber threat detection and software development, so it’s vital that more is done to make sure these talents are being utilised, especially in sectors facing a skills gap,” Girlanda added.
How can HR ensure the wellbeing of neurodiverse staff?
Over 50% of respondents to the survey identified the most helpful things for autistic employees as being putting in place clearly defined instructions and therefore ensuring that communication is simple and effective. 77% noted that this is either happening or in the process of happening.
The same amount stated that having appropriate software and equipment e.g. speech to text; screen filters; multiple monitors was helpful. 72% say this is either happening or in the process of happening at their company.
Finally, flexible and adjusted hours - i.e. start/finish time is later or earlier depending on preference – was a key choice for 49%, whilst 76% say this is either happening or in the process of happening at their company.