You might have seen that last week was Neurodiversity Celebration Week – a week to celebrate those with brains that think, learn, process and behave differently and challenge bias and perceived 'weaknesses'. There are many examples of neurodiversity, including ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, Asperger's and Tourette’s syndrome.
Greta Thunberg, when discussing her Asperger’s, says “I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower”. It seems that rings very true. For example, did you know that some forms of autism are linked to higher levels of concentration and an ability to accurately recall detailed information? Similarly, dyslexic individuals will often exceed their neurotypical peers when it comes to problem-solving, creativity and initiative. These are just a few examples.
Clearly, these attributes are highly useful in the workplace and this is one of the many reasons why recruiting a diverse workforce is so important. However, a difference in thinking lends itself to a difference in working styles so the key is not to forget Greta's comment about being “given the right circumstances”. Given that many examples of neurodiversity will fall within the definition of disabilities in the Equality Act 2010, this means considering reasonable adjustments. We have set out our top tips for this below:
- Have an open conversation. This can be a really easy way to make employees feel comfortable expressing their needs. Once an employer is aware of a disability, it is their duty to consider reasonable adjustments, so involving the employee in discussions can make that easier.
- Take your employee seriously. It can be tempting to make comparisons to your own experiences, such as “I struggle to concentrate when it’s noisy too”, but this can come off as dismissive and a neurodivergent employee may be feeling these things to an amplified level.
- Strongly consider implementing your employee’s suggestions if they are feasible for the business, whether context-specific, task-specific and also person-specific. If you do not implement a reasonable adjustment and a tribunal considers that you could have reasonably done so, you could face discrimination claims. N Power Ltd was ordered to pay almost £35,000 in compensation for failing to allow an autistic employee to have a regular desk away from noise because he experienced sensory overloads and aversions to change. It is also worth remembering the grants that are available to support employees through Access to Work.
- Involve occupational health, as they will be able to identify possible adjustments and make recommendations. If employees are reluctant about engaging with occupational health, be clear on the positive impact this could have on them.
- Take opportunities to share best practices with your network. To coincide with neurodiversity week, a new Neurodiversity in Business (NiB) Forum has been launched at the Houses of Parliament to partner with employers and neurodiversity support organisations.
If we only ever employ and champion those that think the same, we only ever reach the same solutions.
If you would like advice on supporting neurodivergent employees in your business, please do get in touch.