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Government releases report to tackle barriers autistic people face at work 

The Buckland Review of Autism Employment shows how employers can support autistic people at work

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released a new report on autism in the workplace. 

The report identified the barriers autistic people face in the workplace, and laid out 19 recommendations for employers and the government to take forward.

According to the National Autistic Society, around one in 70 people in the UK is autistic.

Just three in 10 autistic people of working age are in employment compared with five in 10 of all disabled people and eight in 10 for non-disabled people, the Office for National Statistics found.

The DWP report committed to helping employers improve the experience autistic people have with work from recruitment through to career progression.

It noted that autistic graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed after 15 months as non-disabled graduates, and are twice as likely to be overqualified for their job.

Meanwhile autistic people face the largest pay gap of all disability groups.

The report also pointed to guidance that could help employers support autistic people.

Part of this included encouraging employers to work with software suppliers to develop IT systems that meet autistic people’s needs.

This comes after the government’s Disability Action Plan (February 2024) was criticised by campaigners for not supporting people with disabilities at work.

Read more: Half of neurodivergent employees don’t feel supported at work 

Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, a charity that creates opportunities for young autistic people, said that the report highlighted the stigma that people with autism face before getting into work. 

She told HR magazine: “We know most autistic young people want to work but face stigma, rejection and a lack of opportunity in the current job market.  

“This important review has shone a light on the woeful situation autistic people face. We’re pleased to see its focus on solutions to tackle these problems.” 

The review highlighted the charity’s Employ Autism programme, which offers autistic people internship opportunities in autism-supportive environment.

Lasota added that the government should commit to piloting employment health and care plans to help autistic people into work. 

She continued: “There is robust evidence that the longer people are out of work, the harder it is for them to gain and maintain employment.  

“We want to stop this cycle before it begins for the next generation of autistic young people. 

“We are therefore calling for the piloting of employment health and care plans, a continuation of the education health and care plans that already exist, which provide a legal obligation for autistic young people to be supported in school where necessary.” 

Read more: Disability Action Plan should offer more workplace support, say specialists 

Alex McGuinness, senior neuroinclusion coach at autism-majority IT software provider and consultancy Auticon, highlighted that employees with autism add value to organisations.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Autistic people have a lot to offer employers.

“They frequently exhibit heightened cognitive abilities, including exceptional pattern recognition, sustained concentration, and meticulous attention to detail.

“Capitalising on these strengths not only enhances problem-solving capabilities but also enriches team dynamics with innovative perspectives and approaches.”

McGuinness recommended employers could introduce adaptive technology to the workplace to meet autistic employees’ needs.

He continued: “Incorporating adaptive technology into the workplace can significantly enhance the support provided to autistic employees.”

He pointed to tools like noise-cancelling headphones and sensory-friendly workspaces to create a positive environment for employees on the autism spectrum.

He continued: “In addition, the provision of assistive technologies like screen readers, speech-to-text software, and visual schedules can empower autistic individuals to navigate their work tasks more effectively and independently.”

The DWP report noted that it would engage with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and further invest in the Disability Confident Scheme and the Access to Work Programme to improve how people with autism experience work.

The Buckland Review of Autism Employment was launched on 2 April 2023, and published on 28 February 2024. Led by Sir Robert Buckland MP in collaboration with autism charity, Autistica, the report consulted employers, autistic people, charities and specialist support groups to find how to improve the experience of autistic people at work.