Neurodiversity | Plan hatched to smash employment barriers faced by autistic people

Plan hatched to smash employment barriers faced by autistic people

A new review has been launched to boost the employment prospects of autistic people.

Sir Robert Buckland KC MP has been appointed lead the review by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and will consider how the Government can work with employers to help more autistic people realise their potential and get into work.

People with autism have particularly low employment rates – with fewer than three in 10 in work – but the Buckland Review of Autism Employment, supported by charity Autistica and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), is aiming to change that.

The Review will ask businesses, employment organisations, specialist support groups and autistic people to help identify the barriers to securing and retaining work and progressing with their careers.

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The Buckland Review of Autism Employment will consider issues including:

  • how employers identify and better support autistic staff already in their workforce;

  • what more could be done to prepare autistic people effectively for beginning or returning to a career;

  • and working practices or initiatives to reduce stigma and improve the productivity of autistic employees.

It will focus specifically on autistic people, and aim to develop solutions that:

  • will be acceptable to autistic people.

  • will be effective at improving autistic people’s outcomes.

  • will be feasible for employers or public services to deliver.

As part of the review, many of the adjustments and initiatives that would benefit autistic people could also benefit a wider group of people who think differently, including those with other neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia.

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Sir Robert Buckland KC MP said he was delighted to have been asked to lead the important Review.

“Our workplaces and businesses would benefit so much from the huge potential that autistic people represent”, said Buckland.

“If we close the employment gap for autistic people, it will not just mean individual fulfilment but a significant boost to employment and productivity for our country.”

Review is a welcome move, but the devil will be in the details

Jim Moore, employee relations expert at HR consultants Hamilton Nash, said: “Despite growing calls for employers to embrace neurodiversity in the workforce, many are apprehensive about supporting an employee with autism.

“We are pleased to see this employment review intended to improve the job prospects of people with autism, but the devil will be in the details.

“Having a disability like autism is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, so while an employee doesn’t have to disclose a disability, it’s a good idea to do so, as that puts the onus on the employer to consider ‘reasonable adjustments’.

“It could be considered discrimination if the employer refuses to make allowances for a disability unless they can justify why not.

“People with autism often have exceptional concentration and attention to detail, strong technical skills and an excellent memory. All these traits can make a significant contribution to a business.

“Employers can make a number of reasonable adjustments to help an employee with autism. These could include providing screens around desks, noise-cancelling headphones or a quiet working location.

“It might involve assigning them an office mentor to guide and advise, or allowing them to focus on one task rather than multitasking.

“Dealing with challenging behaviours can make some employers hesitant about supporting an employee with autism. Displays of anger, inappropriate outbursts or meltdowns can happen, but generally only in more severe cases

“How autism affects a specific individual should be taken into account when evaluating a situation, including whether other reasonable adjustments can be made to address the issue and support the employee.”

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Comments (1)

  • Alison
    Wed, 12 Apr 2023 10:02am BST
    The Buckland Review is a welcome step forward but what employers will also require is guidance on the softer skills needed to assist them to support individuals affected by autism. Employers are wary of saying the wrong thing, as a well intended comment is often accompanied by the wrong choice of words.

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