Neurodiversity relates to the differences in the way we think, behave, process information and learn. 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent, meaning their brain functions differently in one or more ways than is considered standard or ‘typical’. Examples of neurodiverse conditions include ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette syndrome and autism; each neurological condition presents its own challenges and will be experienced differently by each person.
These conditions should not always be thought of as disabilities or disorders, in the right context they can offer unique perspectives and powerful competitive advantages. Despite companies’ increasing focus on diversity and inclusion in the workforce, the neurodivergent group is often overlooked in conversation, and consequently, hiring and promotion efforts.
How can employers create a more neurodiverse workplace?
Large corporations including Microsoft, IBM and Proctor and Gamble are already recognising the benefits of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace. Proctor and Gamble partnered with the National Autistic Society to recruit through a neurodiversity work experience programme which allowed for a workforce that included both ‘neuro typical’ and ‘neuro diverse’ thinking styles, resulting in increased innovation and better end result products.
There are a number of tactics that can be adopted by employers to help create a more diverse workplace overall. These can better serve to integrate and leverage the full potential of neurodivergent employees. Examples include:
• Assess your recruitment process for aspects which may have the effect of unintentionally excluding neurodiverse talent. Such exclusion could result from interviews where candidates who show a lack of eye contact or unconventional body language are scored down, or applicants being confused or rushed by unexpected assessments. Consider redistributing the weight of desired skills to create a more level playing field in the recruitment process.
• Consider introducing mentors for new employees. Mentors can provide valuable support to an employee, for example one to one support for short time periods provided by someone within the employee’s team or from elsewhere in the organisation.
• Run awareness training. This can help develop a general awareness and understanding of neurodiverse colleagues. It can reduce the risk that colleagues see a neurodiverse colleague struggling with one part of their role as incompetent or lazy.
• Create a culture that offers and encourages flexibility, which can be especially important for neuodivergent individuals. A flexible work schedule can allow employees to take time off for appointments/self-care. As companies embed hybrid working models in the aftermath of COVID-19, employers should consider what kind of hybrid approach can meet the unique preferences of neurodivergent employees.
There is no general duty on a job applicant to disclose as neurodivergent. If someone chooses to disclose, employers should ask whether they need any reasonable adjustment to the recruitment process.
Remember that asking a job candidate if they have a disability is unlawful, except for a few limited exceptions. This is to help ensure that disabled applicants are not discriminated against due to a disability.
Under the Equality Act 2010 a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on their ability to do normal day to day tasks.
If a neurodiverse person’s difficulties are severe enough to impede everyday activities and have occurred for 12 months or more, then they may be deemed disabled for Equality Act purposes. Once employers are aware of this, they have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to alleviate any disadvantage suffered as a result of any disability.
Reasonable adjustments will vary amongst roles and workplaces, but examples include:
• Allowing extra time in an assessment test.
• Providing interview questions in advance.
• Adjustments to a workstation, such as lighting or a quieter space.
Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace can help to create an accessible and successful working environment for all. Please contact our employment team if you would like more information and advice about neurodiversity in the workplace.