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In this article our employment law solicitors discuss Neurodiversity in the workplace and the key aspects that employers and employees must be aware of.

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to the way that an individual’s brain works differently, which is unique to each individual. Most people are neurotypical, which means they think and behave in a way similar to most other people. Around one in seven people are neurodivergent, which means they behave, think and process, and interpret information differently to most other people.

Typically, most workplaces are designed with a neurotypical society in mind, which can make it very difficult for neurodivergent employees to thrive at work, as a traditional environment can be more challenging or uncomfortable.

Examples of neurodiversity include:

  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • DCD (previously dyspraxia)
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Tic disorders (ie, Tourette’s syndrome)

These conditions can vary significantly in their effects on different people.

Advantages that Neurodiversity brings to the Workplace

People that are neurodivergent have talents, perspectives and expertise that can be beneficial in many working environments. Some of these benefits include:

Greater creativity and innovation – Neurodiversity ensures diversity of thought, spurring innovation and creativity​

Broader talent pool - Neurodiverse individuals are an untapped pool of talent, there is a huge resource to help fill the skills shortage gap especially in the IT and Finance sectors​

Enhanced morale – when employees recognise that they are valued and respected as individuals, corporate ethos and morale naturally increase

How can employers assist with Neurodiversity?

It is important for businesses to recognise neurodiversity and support individuals with any challenges they may face. In many cases, neurodiversity will be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, and therefore employers are responsible for putting in place reasonable adjustments to support them in the workplace.  

Top tips for supporting neurodivergent employees

Get to know individuals

By getting to know individuals you can understand how to support their unique characteristics and strengths, but also understand the individual challenges they may face. You should ensure an open trusting relationship is formed with managers and make sure they know where to go if they need additional support.

Don't make assumptions or stereotype

Each individual will have different challenges and concerns; consider a personalised plan of action that the employee can fully input into.

Consider technology or equipment requirements

An example where technology or equipment could assist a neurodivergent employee could be where an employee with dyslexia may struggle with reading and writing and may require tools to assist them.

Communicate

Use positive, inclusive language and ensure the organisation’s mission statement and values represent a culture of inclusivity. Be mindful of considering different ways of communicating, as neurodiverse individuals can often interpret communications differently.

Consider the physical environment

Many neurodivergent employees can find lots of bright lighting, noise and people overstimulating, so consider adjustments to allow quiet zones and supportive working environments.

Be aware of mental health issues

Whilst mental health is different to neurodiversity, mental health problems such as anxiety and stress are common in neurodivergent people and can also lead to implications under the Equality Act.

Top tips for embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace

It naturally follows that employers should be embracing neurodiversity throughout the workplace. Some of our top tips for embracing neurodiversity and imbedding a good culture are as follows:

  • Raise awareness and promote a diverse workforce
  • Training
  • Attract and retain talent of neurodiverse employees
  • Use positive, inclusive language at all times
  • Support neurodiversity in the workplace
  • Be aware of legal obligations
  • Look at reasonable adjustments to the workplace from the recruitment stage
  • Appoint a mental health first aider
  • Consider including neurodiversity in existing policies or as a standalone policy

What are the risks of getting it wrong?

It is important that employers are aware that ‘one size fits all’ does not apply to neurodiversity, and understanding the needs of each individual employee is important. While not every neurodivergent employee will be considered to have a disability under the Equality Act, many will and therefore getting it wrong can lead to costly discrimination claims.

The case of R Bryce v Sentry Consulting Ltd

In the case of R Bryce v Sentry Consulting Ltd the tribunal upheld Bryce’s claim that his employer failed to make reasonable adjustments to support his neurodiversity.

What were the facts of the case?

Security guard, Raymond Joseph Bryce, suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome and dyslexia. Bryce told his managers at Sentry Consulting that his conditions left him 'disorganised' and that he often misread the time on his alarm clock.

He had asked his managers at the private security firm for a grace period of 15-20 minutes in the mornings, should he turn up late, but after a string of incidents they instead stopped assigning him shifts.

He accused them of discrimination and failing to make reasonable adjustments for his disability.​

What was the Tribunal’s decision?

​Bryce's claims were upheld by an employment tribunal, with the panel concluding his neurodiversity made it difficult for him to maintain the organisation levels of a neurotypical employee.​

The tribunal ruled that Bryce’s timekeeping struggles were “the main reason for the decision not to offer him more shifts” and that Mr Bryce’s disabilities had “a number of long-term effects on his normal day to day activities” including inhibiting his ability to read, write and understand information.​

Accordingly, the tribunal ruled in favour of his claim of discrimination arising from a disability. They also supported his complaint that the firm failed to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate this disability.

How we can help

Our employment solicitors can provide your business or organisation with a comprehensive suite of services relating to neurodiversity including training, policy amendments and are happy to discuss any concerns you may have relating to neurodivergent employees and how you can best support them.

To discuss neurodiversity in the workplace with our team, please contact us today by completing the enquiry form below and one of our solicitors will be in touch to discuss your matter with you.

Key Contacts

Helen Watson

Helen Watson

Partner | Head of Employment Law

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Debbie Coyne

Debbie Coyne

Employment Law Senior Associate Solicitor

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