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Half of neurodivergent employees miss work due to lack of support, report finds

18% of neurodiverse employees said they didn’t know where to go for help

Half of neurodivergent employees have taken time off work due to their neurodivergence, City & Guilds’ annual Neurodiversity Index found. This increased 5% from last year.

The report, produced in collaboration with neurodiverse IT provider Do-IT, revealed that 36% of neurodivergent employees claimed to have not received any guidance or support for adjusting their workplace setting. Nearly a fifth (18%) reported that they didn’t know where to go for help in their organisation. 

A further 20% indicated that they are still waiting for adjustments to be put in place – up from 18% in 2018. There was an increase from 7% to 12% in people waiting one to six weeks for adjustments.

Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions, told HR magazine that employers need to do more to support neurodivergent people in the workplace.

She said: "The fact that a half of neurodivergent employees are missing work due to the challenges they face with their diagnosis is neither acceptable nor sustainable in the long term. 

“Whether for people with predominant ADHD traits struggling with burnout, or those with dyspraxia or dyspraxic traits waiting for needed adjustments to their workspace, a lack of inclusivity at work can sap productivity and leave employees feeling isolated.”

Read more: Why digital accessibility is key to recruiting a neurodivergent workforce

James McLaughlin, UK vice president of social impact firm WithYouWithMe, who has dyslexia, explained to HR magazine why neurodiverse employees might need to take time off work if their workplace does not accommodate their needs.

He said: “Neurodiverse employees may require time off from work due to the increased levels of stress, anxiety or depression they may experience in environments that do not accommodate their unique ways of processing information.”

McLaughlin added that employers could support neurodiverse employees by creating a culture of inclusion that encourages individuals to specify their needs.

He continued: “Employers should cultivate a culture of inclusion where diversity is valued and respected, allowing neurodiverse individuals to feel comfortable advocating for their needs.

“Early identification and communication are essential, encouraging open dialogues about neurodiversity and mental health to identify necessary adjustments promptly.

"Clear processes for requesting and implementing workplace adjustments should be established, including timelines and contact information, further making neurodiverse employees feel included and, importantly, listened to.”

The survey also found that 39% of neurodiverse employees have neurodiverse children.

Of those with neurodiverse children, 36% claimed their child impacted their work. Yet 28% of organisations report not having made any accommodations for the parents of neurodiverse children.

Around a third (33%) of organisations reported having plans to introduce support for neurodiverse parents in future.

Daniel Aherne, founder of workplace neurodiversity awareness consultancy Adjust, said that employers should be aware of the experiences of neurodiverse employees and parents of neurodiverse children.

Read more: Working mothers are being pushed to breaking point: employers need to step up

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Employers should be aware of the legislation, and that parents of neurodiverse children could be covered under the Equality Act by association. 

“The workplace can offer screening to the parents of the neurodiverse children, to see if they are also neurodiverse themselves.”

Aherne continued by saying that employers could train employees to better support neurodiverse individuals.

He said: “This can start with senior leadership being positively vocal about neurodiversity, workplaces supporting neurodiversity employee networks, engaging in training and having a clear procedure on how to access adjustments.”

Agata Bakowska, a recruiter at manufacturer Liebherr, and a parent to two children with autistic spectrum disorder, told HR magazine that employers should offer mental health support to parents of neurodiverse children.

She said: “Companies should take a proactive approach to supporting the mental wellbeing of employees, including those parenting neurodiverse children. 

“Providing access to resources such as HR support or designated personnel responsible for fostering positive relationships among employees can be instrumental.”

The Neurodiversity Index is an annual report by City & Guilds that charts the progress of neurodiversity support in the workplace. It surveyed 573 UK employees and 93 organisations over three months between September and December 2023. The survey sample includes people with conditions like autism, ADHD, or dyspraxia.