Wed 18 Oct 2023

The case for neurodiversity in the workplace

October is ADHD awareness month, dyslexia awareness day is 8 October and dyspraxia awareness day is 9 October.  But while "diversity" within the workplace is something that has been at the forefront of HR practices for some time, it seems the same cannot be said of neurodiversity. According to recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics, only 30% of autistic adults are in employment. 

"Neurodiversity" is a term that is beginning to be more widely recognised by the general public.  The name covers a broad spectrum of conditions including both more commonly recognised ones such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia, and less well known ones such as dyspraxia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia.  Irrespective of the label, a primary problem has been a wide spread perception of neurodiversity as a medical condition with the negative connotations that brings with it, rather than a naturally different way of thinking and experiencing the world. Differing ways of thinking mean alternative ways of looking at and potentially solving problems. 

If you require persuasion about the benefits of employing neurodivergent staff, the 
CIPD guide on neurodiversity at work is an extremely good place to start. Not only does the guide identify a number of extremely successful neurodivergent people (examples ranging from Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and IKEA founder Ingvar Kampard to Daniel Radcliffe, Florence Welch and Cara Delevigne) there are also testimonials from a number of companies who have pioneered neurodiverse ways of working. A particularly compelling example comes from JP Morgan who reported that "after three to six months working in the Mortgage Banking Technology division, autistic workers were doing the work of people who took three years to ramp up - and were 50% more productive".

Whilst neurodivergent employees may share a number of characteristics they can be very differently affected. That said, typical strengths associated with the neurodivergent individuals include problem solving and analytical thinking, an ability to concentrate for lengthy periods of time and to assimilate and retain detailed information.  All positive skills valued by most employers.  

Of course, the additional challenges that come with promoting neurodiversity in the workplace can't be ignored.  Some neurodivergent conditions will amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and employers will need to comply with the legal obligations that arise in consequence of that. However, employers need to bear in mind that a neurotypical employee may develop a disability during the course of employment, or simply prove to be a poor performer, so not diversifying at the recruitment stage may well be a false economy. 

As the benefits of diversifying become more widely appreciated the guidance available both on what neurodiversity is and, specifically, how employers can change their workplace to support it is also becoming more readily available.  As the CIPD guide is quick to point out, many of the simple adjustments that can be made for neurodivergent employees are actually good for everybody.  As such, embracing and supporting neurodiversity can help create not only a stronger workforce but also a healthier workplace overall.

Make an Enquiry

From our offices we serve the whole of Scotland, as well as clients around the world with interests in Scotland. Please complete the form below, and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.

Morton Fraser MacRoberts LLP will use the information you provide to contact you about your inquiry. The information is confidential. For more information on our privacy practices please see our Privacy Notice