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Neurodiversity in the workplace

Neurodiversity is the idea that people experience the world in very different ways and that there isn't a 'right' way of thinking, learning and behaving. Employers can support neurodivergent employees in a number of different ways. Read this guide to find out more.

Last reviewed 12 January 2023.

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Being neurodiverse means thinking, learning, perceiving the world, interacting, and processing information differently. Embracing those who are neurodiverse can help businesses thrive, as a workforce that includes people with a variety of backgrounds,experiences and approaches can help to improve creativity, innovation and problem-solving.

Neurodivergent people include those who have:

  • autism

  • dyslexia 

  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions

  • learning disabilities

The key legislation that relates to neurodiversity in the workplace is the Equality Act 2010. This Act introduces nine protected characteristics, one being disability. Neurodivergent workers may meet the definition of disability under the Act, which provides them with rights to reasonable adjustments and protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation

Employers must comply with the Equality Act by developing policies and practices that support neurodiverse individuals, thereby enabling them to be treated according to their needs.

Businesses can promote a more inclusive workplace for neurodivergent employees by making reasonable adjustments. Making reasonable adjustments can help an individual gain the most from their strengths and minimise any challenges they might experience as a result of their neurodivergence. 

Reasonable adjustments could be made to: 

  • the workplace itself, eg providing a private space to use when quiet is needed, or room dividers to enhance sound-proofing. Special equipment and technological support could also be provided, such as an organiser to help with time management 

  • the way things are done, eg making adjustments to somebody's work schedule to allow extra breaks

  • the support and team available, eg  getting somebody to support a worker through coaching or mentorship

For more information on making reasonable adjustments, read Disability and reasonable adjustments.

Businesses can take a variety of steps throughout an entire recruitment process to make it more inclusive. 

The application process

Businesses can:

  • use plain language to communicate

  • avoid using acronyms

  • focus on essential skills and experience

  • avoid unnecessary information

  • design application forms that are as simple as possible to complete

  • provide examples of some of the reasonable adjustments they have made (or can make), to reassure candidates that invitations to disclose their neurodivergence are genuine

Businesses may also want to include a diversity statement in any job advertisements, to show that they welcome applications from neurodivergent candidates. Similarly, businesses may wish to consider joining the Government's Disability Confident Scheme to highlight their genuine commitment towards hiring neurodivergent and disabled candidates.

The interview process

Businesses can:

  • ask clear and specific questions and avoid open-ended questions

  • allow applicants to see the questions beforehand

  • consider alternatives to interviews, such as practical assessments

  • provide clear and constructive feedback in the event that a candidate is unsuccessful

  • ensure that the new manager of a successful applicant is advised of their neurodivergence, so support can be provided from the outset

Disclosure

It is important that businesses create an environment in which disclosure by candidates of their neurodivergent conditions is commonplace. They can do this by checking their policies and guidance on disability to ensure they refer to neurodivergence and that they highlight the business’ commitment to supporting neurodiversity.

Ask a lawyer if you have any questions. Consider using our Bespoke legal drafting service if you would like to adopt a tailored policy for your workplace.

Make your Equal opportunities policy
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Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest