Autism is a term covering a wide range of conditions that reflect neurological differences among people. It can cause social barriers which may affect the lives of people with autism at work. There are about 332,600 people of working age in the UK with autism. However, only 15 per cent of adults with autism are in full-time employment and only nine per cent are in part-time work.
Autism in the workplace, written for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) by Janine Booth, aims to inform union reps and workers of the facts around the condition, and advice on how to support autistic staff to ensure they get the adjustments they may need and to which they are legally entitled.
The guide explains the difficulties autistic people can face at work, and suggests a number of changes that an employer can implement to make the workplace more autism-friendly, including:
- a relaxation space in the workplace, like a quiet room
reduction in an overload of distractions in the workplace, like maximising natural light, and enabling easy control of light and temperature
- information about autism and support services available so that all workers can access it
- providing paid time off for union reps to attend training and events about autism
- all instructions and policies to be written and communicated clearly and accurately
- training for managers about autism, including recognising autistic positives and skills
- all changes to working practices to be negotiated with the union, and proper notice given before they are introduced.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “All too often, people who are autistic can face challenges and obstacles at work due to ignorance and prejudice around their condition.
“Our new workplace guidance gives union reps and employees the information they need to support autistic work colleagues and make plans for any potential problems before they arise.”
* Autism in the workplace is available at www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Autism.pdf