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Neurodiversity in the workplace

September 27, 2023 Speech Box

Employers are increasingly looking for neurodiverse, or differently abled, employees for the skills and abilities they can bring to the workplace, say careers coach Sarah Wissing and Bishop & Sewell partner and Head of Employment, Rhian Radia.

The World Economic Forum estimates that between 10% and 20% of the world’s population is neurodiverse, with common conditions including dyslexia, autism, Tourette Syndrome and ADHD. Businesses looking for new ways of thinking and greater empathy with customers and colleagues are embracing this long-overlooked pool of talent.

But it is not without its challenges with neurodiverse individuals often having to work twice as hard as the world of work is not always well set up for them, especially recruitment processes. Coaching for neurodiverse people alongside training for managers and colleagues can bring out the very best in a workforce and minimise the risk of discrimination claims.

Breaking down barriers

Often, the first challenge facing neurodiverse individuals is what to share with their employer. Whilst there is no obligation for an individual to inform their employer about neurodiversity, employers will not be able to help and provide support if they do know.

It is still commonplace for individuals to believe they will be discriminated against, if not directly but indirectly by being overlooked, for example, for certain projects or pieces of work. It is a difficult decision to make.

However, disclosing any neurodiversity challenges will provide protection under the law. It will also open the discussion about how an employer can best provide the support needed to deliver in the role and make reasonable adjustments where appropriate.

Coaching and training will unlock both.

Neurodiverse individuals with coaching will perform better in the workplace as it is a space where they can identify their strengths. Coaching can help individuals better manage the label they carry, their relationship with colleagues and address issues of confidence.

Importantly, coaching will help individuals understand how they can best ask for help when it is needed and how they can best interpret instructions and approach tasks. Coaching can also address technology and coping strategies.

Alongside coaching for individuals, employers should also consider training for colleagues to help them understand and appreciate the differences in how information is processed and dispel some of the myths that surround neurodiversity. It will often address inclusive and accessible communication styles, understanding sensory needs and peer support networks.

The law

Neurodiversity is covered by the Equalities Act 2010, which defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that has an impact on an individual’s ability to do normal daily activities. Employers must make reasonable adjustments for neurodiverse employees throughout their employment.

Reasonable adjustments at work need not be expensive. Open conversations and an understanding of the issues an individual faces cost nothing and in many cases are enough to support an individual in their job.

Employers that ignore the issue can all too easily find themselves facing allegations of discrimination and Tribunal claims.

Neurodiverse benefits

The thought processes of neurodiverse individuals are difficult if not impossible to replicate with technology, even with the recent advances in AI, meaning they are enormously valuable to businesses.

In addition to new ways of thinking, problem-solving and creativity, neurodiverse individuals often have strong long-term memories and good verbal communication skills, high levels of productivity and work quality alongside high levels of stamina.

They are skills that are increasingly being recognised by some of the world’s largest employers with IBM, Dell, JP Morgan Chase, EY, Salesforce and Google all having neurodiversity programmes.

The benefits of a neurodiverse workforce are clear and employers should look to broaden their talent pools and tap into new ways of thinking and working.

Sarah Wissing is an HR professional and career coach who supports individuals with dyslexia.

Rhian Radia is a Partner and Head of Employment Law here at Bishop & Sewell.

Contact our Employment Solicitors

Rhian Radia is a Partner and Head of the Bishop & Sewell Employment team. For initial advice or to arrange a meeting the Employment team, please email  or call on 020 7631 4141

The above is accurate as at 27 September 2023. The information above may be subject to change.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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