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Half of neurodivergent employees don’t feel supported at work

Employers should find the hidden barriers for neurodiverse employees, a consultant said -

More than half of neurodivergent employees don’t feel that their organisation (52%) or team (54%) is open or supportive enough to discuss neurodiversity, research by the CIPD revealed.

The survey, conducted in collaboration with the corporate neurodiversity inclusion training provider Uptimize, also uncovered that one in five neurodivergent employees have experienced harassment or discrimination at work because of their neurodivergence.

Further, 31% of neurodivergent employees have not told their line manager or HR representative about their neurodivergence due to concerns about people making assumptions based on stereotypes (37%) and because they do not think that their organisation would be understanding or offer support (18%).

Just 37% of neurodivergent employees felt that their organisation provided meaningful support to neurodiverse individuals. A third (33%) indicated that their experience at work had a negative impact on their mental wellbeing.

Read more: Neurodiversity tribunals continue to rise

Mark Charlesworth, managing director of neuroinclusion consultancy Neurotide, told HR magazine that employers should act quickly on complaints of harassment and discrimination against neurodiverse employees to build trust and encourage individuals to share their condition.

He added that employers could make their culture neuroinclusive by learning about different conditions and the experiences of neurodiverse people in the workplace.

He said: “Employers should find out where the hidden barriers and tripwires are that are limiting neurodiverse people within the employee lifecycle, including applying, staying and getting promoted.

“Ensure that a neurodiverse person is asked about, and supported in, achieving their best, whatever that may be. This ensures that a role is moulded to the individual.”

Michael Hall, CEO of DEI consultancy eQS Group, agreed that employers should consider all of the barriers to inclusion that neurodivergent employees might face, from recruitment onwards.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “This starts from using clear and direct language in job listings, using accessible formats for content provided in the recruitment process and then providing a list of adjustments available during the onboarding process."

Hall noted that this would ensure employees receive the individual support they need from the start, enabling them to achieve their best in their role in the long run.

He added: “Aside from adjustments, it is also important that the wider team receives neurodiversity awareness training.

“This can improve understanding and empathy but can also provide practical, actionable tips to improve an inclusive team culture and promote positive collaborative working practices.”

Read more: Opening up the neurodiversity conversation in recruitment

Neely Kimey, an ADHD coach who has ADHD, told HR magazine that the study findings aligned with her experience at work.

She noted that awareness training is particularly important for leadership.

She commented: “Ensuring neurodivergent employee wellbeing and inclusion begins with actually educating leadership about neurodiversity. That is, leadership throughout the company, not only executives, DEI leaders or those who are neurodivergent themselves.

“If neurodiversity is being discussed openly and from a neuroaffirming lens, psychological safety can be fostered to encourage employees to open up about their own neurodivergent struggles, and ultimately feel safer to ask for the accommodations they require to succeed. “

The CIPD report recommended that employers should offer flexible working to make neurodiverse employees feel more included at work.

Jill Miller, senior equality, diversity and inclusion policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “Organisations should ensure managers have the training to manage people effectively, offer flexible working and provide clear access to reasonable adjustments.

“These practices can make a significant difference to neurodivergent people’s working experience, as well as benefitting employees more widely.”

CIPD and Uptimize surveyed over 1,000 employed adults about their working life, of which 790 identified as neurodivergent for their Neuroinclusion at work report.