Recent research by City & Guilds in collaboration with Do-IT Solutions found that workplaces are not adequately supporting neurodivergent employees. This is reflected by only 23% of the HR respondents in the research admitting having conducted any form of neurodiversity training in the last 12 months.
This raises a significant issue in many workplaces, showing that currently there is a lack of priority in making the working environment inclusive to employees who are neurodivergent. Neurodivergent individuals, which include people with Autism or learning difficulties, are already at the lowest rate of employment in the UK according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). If there are no improvements in supporting neurodivergent individuals at work, this may lower the numbers further.
Neurodivergence in UK Workplaces
Neurodiversity, as defined by the CIPD, refers to “the biological reality of infinite variation in human neurocognitive functioning and behaviour, akin to ‘biodiversity’ in the natural world.” They also noted that “neurodiversity” is now used as a sub-category of workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) which includes neurodivergent individuals.
Neurodivergence includes a range of conditions such as:
- Tourette’s & Tic disorders
There is an estimate that 1 in 7 people in the UK or 15% fall into the category of neurodivergent. This number itself is not insignificant, but the reality may be higher as many do not report their conditions or are unaware of their conditions. Based on this, most workplaces are likely to already have neurodivergent employees.
Training on Neurodiversity as a Priority
There are still a lot of stigmas in society regarding neurodivergence. This has deterred many individuals to state their conditions in the fear of being discriminated against. It is important to remember that the spectrum of neurodivergence is very diverse and that neurodivergence will look different between individuals.
Workplaces must provide a safe and positive working environment for all, as well as equal opportunities. Prioritising training on neurodiversity will help build that environment and opportunities that are currently lacking for neurodivergent employees. Creating a supportive environment that accommodates their condition will help them to produce their best work and reach their potential.
Training can also be given to HR departments to ensure that they gain a deep understanding of neurodiversity so that they can create a supportive culture and space for neurodivergent employees. It is important to acknowledge that neurodivergent individuals face barriers their whole life and accommodating their needs will help break those barriers in the workplace.
There should be an appreciation of diverse skills, talents and insights that can be gained from having neurodivergent employees as many have excellent capabilities. Inclusive approaches to employment can benefit the workplace as fresh insights can be gained and the organisation will be more open to new methods of working – allowing for continuous innovation and development.
Ultimately, it is important to ensure inclusivity, equity and diversity in the workplace. Neglecting the needs of neurodivergent employees can be considered a form of discrimination, as their conditions are categorised under disability. However, this does not mean that they are not valued contributors to workplaces – but rather the opposite. Providing support and training will help them access their maximum potential.