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The term ‘neurodivergent’ (or ‘neurodiversity’) refers to the range of differences in an individual’s brain functions and behavioural traits. It represents a range of recognised diagnoses such as autism, Asperger’s, dyspraxia, and dyslexia. Many organisations are encouraging the move away from the ‘traditional’ way of thinking, in which such terms are classed as ‘conditions’ or ‘disorders’ in an attempt to reframe how these diagnoses are thought about within the workplace.

A number of the programmes have been hugely successful with employers, such as JPMorgan, report that after three to six months working in a particular division of the bank, neurodivergent workers were doing the work of people who took three years to get to the same level and were even 50% more productive.

Whilst neurodiverse employees can offer employers fresh perspectives and increase productivity in teams, many still struggle to find and retain employment. For example, a recent study by the National Autistic Society identified that 16% of adults with autism are currently in paid employment whilst 77% want to find paid work.

As employers become switched on to the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce, they may wish to think about ways to support neurodiverse staff. These steps might generally include:

  • Encouraging open discussions around neurodiversity in the workplace;
  • Putting in place a training programme; and
  • Supporting awareness days related to neurodiversity such as Neurodiversity Celebration Week or World Autism Awareness Day.

It is important for employers to also consider specific individuals within the workforce. It may be that some neurodiverse staff have recognised conditions that amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Under the Equality Act, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help staff overcome any significant disadvantages they may face as a result of their condition. Adjustments might include, amending performance triggers, allowing additional breaks during the working day, providing additional training or looking at the use of auxiliary aids such as dictation systems for those with dyslexia or dyspraxia.

Employers will also need to ensure that any potentially discriminatory treatment towards neurodiverse staff is justified. For example, if employers are considering dismissing a neurodiverse employee because of something that arises as a result of their neurodiversity diagnosis, they will need to ensure that the dismissal constitutes a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. How that works in practical terms will vary from case to case, but generally, employers should ensure that they have considered all actions short of the potentially discriminatory treatment and that it is the only way to reasonably resolve the situation.



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