Acas release guidance on managing neurodiversity at work

According to research conducted by ACAS, 1 in 7 UK workers possesses a neurological condition such as autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Given the significant number of individuals with these conditions, ACAS has released new guidance to help employers support and manage neurodivergent staff.

One of the main issues facing employers when it comes to neurodiversity is that these conditions can often go under the radar, as their symptoms may be less transparent when compared to more visible medical conditions. However, employers would do well to pay close attention to staff who may be struggling or displaying behaviour that is out the ordinary.

The Equality Act 2010 states that individuals are considered to be disabled when they have an impairment which has a substantial, and long term, adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.  This means failing to provide adequate support to staff with neurological conditions may expose employers to claims of disability discrimination.

To avoid these claims, ACAS recommends that employers seek to increase awareness of neurodiversity in their organisation in order to create a more inclusive and understanding environment. One way of doing this would be to create a specific neurodiversity policy, which could be read in support of any existing equal opportunities policy, to reaffirm a commitment to meeting employees’ needs. It could also be an idea to consider training for all staff on neurological conditions to reduce any stigma around the matter.

Perhaps most importantly, employers will need to abide by their duty to make reasonable adjustments for staff with neurological conditions. Typical examples of reasonable adjustments include a change in work duties, amended working schedule or a period of home working. Employers should also think about adjustments during the recruitment stage as applicants with neurological conditions may be disadvantaged when tasked with completing certain cognitive aptitude tests.

The guidance goes into more detail and suggests specific adjustments such as: redesigning the workplace to take account of the different sensory needs of staff; providing visible instructions next to office equipment and machinery and allocating work areas with more natural light to staff that struggle with office lighting.

Performance management is another area in which employers may struggle to make inclusive for neurodivergent staff. To improve matters, ACAS advise that capability and performance management policies should clearly set out how neurodiversity will be taken into account when undertaking evaluation procedures.

Employers are also warned against jumping to rash decisions when individuals struggle to meet performance targets and instead examine where further support or guidance may be required. Line managers have an important role to play in communicating with affected individuals, allowing them greater opportunity to discuss any further adjustments where necessary.

As with any disability, employers need to demonstrate they have gone to sufficient lengths to protect neurodivergent staff from suffering any detriment and those who fail to provide sufficient support could find themselves facing a hefty fine at an employment tribunal.

Suggested Resources