How to Bring Equality for Employee with Autism in Workplace

April 2, 201911:12 am
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What do you think about having employees with autism? If you find one of candidates applying for job opening in your company turns out to be someone with autism, will you drop his candidacy immediately, or give him a chance?

WebMD defines autism as “a complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviour.” Meanwhile, Janine Booth, a socialist and author of Autism Equality in the Workplace: removing barriers and challenging discrimination, said that autism is an example of neurological diversity or neurodiversity. They occur when atypical brain connections lead to atypical development. As consequences, people with this disorder might have difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, learning skill, and employment.

However, is there any reason why you should employ individual with autism?

Just like employees with Down syndrome or other people with disability, Incluzy stated that individuals with autism can have exceptional talents and can prove to be invaluable assets to any business. Moreover, autistic employees including those suffering from Asperger syndrome can be one of the high-skilled talents that can bring luck to organisation. As listed in Incluzy, here are personal traits and individual strength an autistic individual can have:

See also: Etiquette lessons for staff with colleagues with disabilities

  • high levels of concentration and focus,
  • reliability and dependability,
  • attention to detail and accuracy,
  • technical abilities, such as coding and programming, and
  • factual knowledge and excellent memory.

Discrimination and trade union issue

However, although they could be reliable employees, many employers still overlook and have no urgency to hire them. According to National Autistic Society’s survey, employers develop a bias against autistic people both in the recruitment process and in the workplace. About 1 in 3 (34 percent) respondents believe autistic people would be unlikely to fit into their team. While, 28 percent said that autistic people would be unlikely to be a team player.  

Seeing the perspective from people with autism, the survey revealed that roughly half respondents experienced bullying or harassment at work. 51 percent respondents said that they received discrimination or unfair treatment. Due to these reasons, only 16 percent people with autism work full time and 43 percent of those have left or lost a job due to their condition.

Another study from TUC mentioned that fifty-one percent adult with autism have spent time with neither a job nor access to benefits, while 10 percent of respondents said that they have been in the same position for a decade or more. The report also revealed that 53 percent of adults with autism said they want help to find job but only 10 percent get the support. Additionally, more than 20 percent of graduates with autism are unemployed due to their incapability.

“These bad experiences have long-term consequences, Autistic people can be left with lower confidence than ever, leading to long-term unemployment, greater dependency, or mental ill health.”

– National Autistic Society’s Survey

Workplace difficulties for autistic employees

TUC report written by Janine Booth showed that workplace can create difficulties for employees with autism in terms of:

  1. discrimination by treating autistic worker less favourably than others;
  2. bullying by management, including ridicule and physical/verbal abuse;
  3. lack of communication and support in workplace;
  4. preventing an autistic worker from carrying out duties or using equipment when there is no valid reason to do so;
  5. rates of pay;
  6. exploitation;
  7. past experiences which might happen when the law was weaker;
  8. self-confidence might be decreased by experiences of discrimination or bullying;
  9. performance management regimes might cause undue pressure and distress to autistic workers; and many more.

On the other hand, a major barrier autistic employee might face in workplace is that company sometimes focuses more on profitable production rather than recognising and including diversity within workforce. In an interview, Janine Booth stated that not including diversity in workplace is a fatal mistake. Although many organisations are aware of it, only few adopts the practice. “Moreover, current economic situation, and austerity policies that have come with it, have intensified pressures on autistic and other workers, and have seen a big increase in insecure employment,” added Booth.

Equality in the workplace

According to Booth, many employers do not make adjustment and create fair workplace until a worker identifies themselves as autistic and request adjustments. However, “there are plenty of changes that an employer can implement to make workplace more autism-friendly before an individual request it.” Also, there are some advantages of doing so, including:

  • It benefits employees who might not be aware that they are on autism spectrum.
  • Workplace that is more autism-friendly is one that recognise neurological diversity, and is therefore better place to ask for changes.
  • It approaches issue as a collective issue rather than an individual ones – and collective action is what trade unions are all about.
  • Having possible adjustments for individuals listed in a collective policy or agreements will make it easier for individual to request and receive them when needs arise.

Furthermore, to bring quality for autistic employees in the workplace means employers should listen and act. Booth suggested, “Most importantly, listen to and act to the views of autistics workers. Don’t assume that because you read an article or know someone who has an autistic child, you know all about autism!” Setting a reasonable adjustments can also benefit employees with autism to be more comfortable working with you. Therefore, your reasonable adjustments should include:

  • paid time off when needed,
  • fixed hours rather than variable shifts,
  • reducing specific sensory stimuli in workplace,
  • change of work location,
  • extra breaks to enable relaxation,
  • providing a mentor,
  • individual support where schedules are unavoidably disrupted and when changes are introduced,
  • adjustment to way in which assessments are carried out,
  • a clear routine and work schedule,
  • a personal workstation,
  • relaxation of triggers for disciplinary action for matters,
  • additional training time off for treatment/appointments, as part of a policy for disability leave,
  • re-allocating training time to colleagues, with their agreement, and
  • most importantly, build awareness amongst employees with or without disabilities and treat them equally.

Read also: Top 10 Tips for Creating an Autism Friendly Workplace Culture