Neurodiversity in the workplace is a growing issue for employers

11 October 2018

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Being an employer is not easy. Many people considering starting a business already think they have a job and then they start to hire staff and realise they need to learn a whole new specialism.

As well as having to be an ace administrator, motivator, diplomat and leader, you also need to have an expertise in employment law.

Anyone who’s had to deal with a unionised workforce will know the potential minefields of staff agreements, consultation, mediation and discrimination.

A growing consideration for more and more companies is the issue of neurodiversity in the workplace and an obligation for employers to recognise conditions such as dyslexia, autism, ADHD and dyspraxia when dealing with staff performance.

These 'spectrum' conditions encompass a range of characteristics and, in future, employers will need to become more aware of the different ways in which people with such neurological conditions learn and process information.

ACAS, the conciliation service, has produced a research paper on the subject which identifies  policies and practices that can help employers become more aware of the issue as well as assisting people with these conditions to thrive in the workplace.

Among the report’s findings were several issues of key importance to employers, including:

  • Problems with underperformance can arise where managers are not aware of the condition.
  • When dealing with performance issues, employers should be sensitive to and conscious of the extent to which the employee needs guidance.
  • Clear communication is vital, and it should focus on the individual's strengths as well as areas of weakness.
  • It’s important to foster a working environment where all staff feel accepted and have the chance to play to their strengths.
  • Employers should be careful not to discriminate against neurodiverse candidates during the recruitment process.
  • Greater awareness can help. Employers should be proactive in providing information on neurodiversity for those with neurological conditions as well as for those without.
  • Placing too much emphasis on 'all-round' generic competencies can disadvantage staff with neurological conditions who may have highly-specialised skills that could be harnessed differently.
  • Bear in mind that neurological conditions are spectrum conditions and that characteristics will vary, including how individuals cope with the associated characteristics of their condition over time ie an autistic employee will need to have tasks tailored to them that are different to an employee with ADHD.
  • The potential merits of having a neurodiverse workforce should not be overlooked.
  • Positive attributes include creativity, lateral thinking, bringing a 'different perspective', development of highly specialised skills and the consistency in tasks once mastered.
  • Employers should consider the benefits of hiring employees with neurological conditions.

For more information, visit: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/2/m/Neurodiversity_at_work_0916(2).pdf

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