Home News Only 58% of Autistic Workers Reveal Diagnosis to HR

Only 58% of Autistic Workers Reveal Diagnosis to HR

Only 58% of Autistic Workers Reveal Diagnosis to HR

New research by auticon, a global IT consultancy and social enterprise whose IT consultants are all autistic, has revealed that only just over half (58%) of autistic workers reveal their diagnosis to HR.

The survey of autistic adults who are in employment showed that line managers are the colleagues they are most likely to speak to about their condition (7 out of 10 had done so) but that 1 in 10 autistic workers do not feel they can reveal their diagnosis in the workplace at all.

For those who had not disclosed their autism to anyone in the workplace, key barriers included:

  • 2 in 5 (40%) are not ready to tell people in the workplace
  • 1 in 3 (33%) have concerns about being treated adversely
  • 1 in 4 (27%) do not want to share their private information with their employer
  • 1 in 4 (27%) feel unsure how to communicate their diagnosis to people in their workplace
  • 1 in 5 (20%) have only recently been diagnosed
  • 1 in 5 (20%) are concerned about being thought of negatively by employers
  • 1 in 8 (13%) are concerned that it will have a negative impact on their prospects within the company
  • 1 in 14 (7%) have had a previous negative experience of disclosing

People who are neurodivergent, such as those on the autism spectrum, often possess natural abilities in areas such as pattern recognition, logical thinking and accuracy. Yet, recent studies have shown that autistic people are significantly under-represented in the workplace, with only one in five autistic people in employment.

Andrea Girlanda, Chief Executive of auticon, comments: “Whilst it is reassuring to see that a lot of autistic workers are talking to their line managers about their diagnosis, there is clearly still a long way to go to make the workplace a more inclusive space which allows people to thrive. Autistic people often have exceptional talents, enabling them to outperform in areas such as data analytics, cyber threat detection and software development, so it’s vital that more is done to make sure these talents are being utilised, especially in sectors facing a skills gap.”

auticon’s new research sought to identify some of the biggest challenges autistic employees face in their working lives. The most common issues cited included:

  • Worries about how to communicate mental health decline to management (49%), which was exceptionally high in younger autistic workers – 62% in age 18-30 vs 49% overall
  • Preferred learning style not being followed e.g. being given text heavy documents, when pictorial information is easier (48%)
  • Being given too much information at once (43%)
  • Feeling the need to hide their autism (42%)
  • Processes and procedures not being followed (40%)
  • Lack of clear instructions or outcomes (39%)
  • Last minute meetings/calls (39%)
  • Bright lighting (36%)
  • Open plan office (35%)
  • Having to navigate workplace small talk (35%)

Girlanda adds: “HR leaders have a significant role to play in driving equality and diversity, and a big opportunity to capitalise on too. A drive for equality has led many organisations to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, which is essentially incompatible with equity in its true sense. The most successful approach to D&I is not equality of treatment but equality of opportunities. The key is flexibility rather than conformity. It shouldn’t be about different processes for men and women, processes for neurotypical individuals and processes for neurodivergent employees. What works best is to flex your existing model to introduce variations and options suiting the specific areas of strengths and weaknesses every individual has.”

Survey respondents identified the most helpful things for autistic employees as being:

  • Having clearly defined instructions – 51% (77% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Appropriate software and equipment e.g. speech to text; screen filters; multiple monitors – 50% (72% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Flexible and adjusted hours i.e. start/finish time is later or earlier depending on preference – 49% (76% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Having a preferred desk in a suitable location – 47% (72% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Option to wear earplugs/noise-cancelling headphones – 44% (70% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Being able to use stimming items during work – 43% (74% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Being able to take regular comfort breaks – 42% (77% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Having a workplace buddy or mentor – 41% (71% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Option to work from home – 29% (69% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)
  • Option to turn camera off during video meetings – 29% (73% say this is either happening or in the process of happening)

Russell Botting, Lead Job Coach at auticon, helps prepare IT consultants for projects by explaining company culture and making sure they have everything they need, as well as running autism awareness training for the host organisation, ensuring they understand any differences they may encounter and facilitating any reasonable adjustments that might be needed along the way.

He says: “The results of this survey send a clear message that there are some really simple changes that can be made to make the working environment a more accessible, accepting and supportive place where people can be their authentic selves without fear of repercussions. This is good for all workers, not just autistic employees, and that makes good business sense too.”

To coincide with the release of the research and auticon’s 10th anniversary, auticon has launched a brand new podcast to help drive great conversations about autism. ‘Autism: In conversation with auticon’ is hosted by broadcaster Carrie Grant MBE and features interviews with leading voices on autism, such as figures from the business world who have applied successful D&I strategies to improve accessibility for neurodivergent talent, social media influencers and autism academics. For more information visit www.auticon.co.uk

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