How Employers Can Help Autistic People with Workplace Adjustments

Employers must take a more proactive role in identifying, suggesting and implementing adjustments for their autistic employees as opposed to placing the burden solely on the employee, a UK study has found.

“Organisations should move away from disclosure as a necessity and provide employees with the information, resources and tools they need to make informed decisions about adjustments, based on their individual needs as opposed to their diagnosis,” the researchers wrote in the journal PLOS One

Here’s how employers can help autistic people with workplace adjustments: 

  • Provide managers with training about the adjustments available within their organisation, and their benefits, as well as the protocol for implementing workplace adjustments 
  • Provide specific autism training to all non-autistic employees.
  • Involve autistic employees in the design and delivery of autism training
  • Provide colleagues with relatable examples and information 
  • Use materials that provide employees with relatable and memorable examples of autistic individuals’ experience and their potential need for adjustments 
  • Provide autistic employees with clear guidance regarding the adjustments that are available and how they can request them 
  • Have a dedicated space on the company intranet containing examples of the adjustments available, and information on how employees can request adjustments 
  • Develop Disability Employee Resource Groups that can empower individuals to advocate for adjustments and ensure employees get equal access to workplace adjustments 

The study researchers interviewed 181 autistic adults’ experiences and views of receiving workplace adjustments in the UK. 

The study found while more than 80% of participants valued workplace adjustments, less than 60% reported requesting them. More than one-third of those who had requested adjustments did not have them successfully implemented. 

In one example, one autistic adult said: “[I was] given an allocated desk space but I had to fight for it back after it was taken away without warning.” 

Another said: “I asked if I could reduce my hours, work less people-facing and more admin-focused but was refused and ultimately fired for not being able to fulfil the role.” 

Many autistic adults struggled to identify the workplace adjustments they required, feeling the onus was on them to describe what adjustments they required. 

“I haven’t made many requests, because I didn’t know I had a clinical reason for feeling uncomfortable,” said one autistic adult. 

“I find it difficult to pinpoint what adjustments and support I might need, and feel further guidance regarding this and what is available to help would be very helpful.” 

List of workplace adjustments that were requested by employees:

1. Changes to physical environment and equipment

  • Access to new equipment or permission to use own equipment such as noise-cancelling headphones
  • Software to improve accessibility
  • Designated quiet spaces
  • Allocated desk or office
  • Allocated car parking space 

2. Changes to job role and supports 

  • Evolving job role based on strengths
  • Flexible work hours to avoid commuting in rush hour
  • Remote working where possible
  • Information resources and mentors 

3. Changes to social and cultural practice 

  • Explicit communication
  • Asking one question at a time
  • Advanced notice of changes
  • Changes to social obligations
  • Increased understanding and training on neurodiversity  

Read the study here

This article was originally published on Neurodiversity Media. It’s been re-published with permission.