ACAS has published guidance (available here) to help employers learn about neurodiversity and to suggest changes that can be made in the workplace to better support ‘neurodivergent’ staff.
‘Neurodiversity’ refers to the way an individual’s brain works and interprets information. ‘Neuro-normal’ or ‘neuro-typical’ was originally coined in the autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) community for someone who did not have ASD. Since then, usage of the neurotypical / neurodiverse distinction has spread to cover comparisons between people with a far wider range of mental and behavioural conditions and those who have none.
Nowadays, a ‘neurotypical’ person is said to be someone whose brain functions in the way society expects, while a ‘neurodivergent’ person is someone whose brain functions, learns and processes information differently. Examples of neurodivergence include ASD, attention deficit disorders and dyslexia.
The new ACAS guidance emphasises that people think differently and that some individuals are naturally better at some tasks and poorer at others. The guidance suggests employers accommodate this difference in practical ways, such as:
- arranging awareness days, campaigns, training or workshops to draw attention to neurodiversity;
- creating an inclusive recruitment process by offering alternative application methods, and training interviewers in unconscious bias; and
- encouraging managers to have discussions with neurodivergent staff to identify appropriate workplace adjustments.
The guidance also emphasises that creating a more inclusive workplace with adjustments for neurodivergent staff will reduce the risk of employees bringing claims of disability discrimination, as well as providing other benefits to the employer, including:
- providing employers with an opportunity to highlight the organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion;
- empowering staff to feel comfortable enough to disclose a neurodivergence; and
- improving staff retention and morale.