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How should employers support neurodivergent employees?

Employment Law

Firstly, what does neurodivergent mean?

Neurodiversity refers to the different ways in which people’s brains work each being unique to an individual. The number of people who are neurodivergent is increasing as awareness around them becomes more widespread and discussed.

Some examples of neurodiversity include:

  • Autism
  • ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • ADD (attention deficit disorder)
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dyspraxia

To be neurotypical is to think and behave in a similar way to most other people and it is this neurotypical society that workplaces are often based around.

Like all of us, neurodivergent people often have unique skills and talents which can be essential as part of a business, but the environment of the workplace must allow them to flourish and use their talents, rather than leave them feeling excluded and uncomfortable.

How can employers help neurodiverse staff?

It is important that as an employer you are aware of any staff members that are neurodivergent and work to support them the best way you can. Neurodiversity will often amount to a disability under the Equality Act of 2010. This means that as an employer you have the responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to support your member of staff.

Some tips that are recommended include:

  • Raising awareness amongst all staff and having policies in place that do not allow bullying or harassment of, but not limited to, people with a neurodivergence.
  • Communicating thoroughly and positively with the individual to get to know their character and learn what they need from you with regards to support in the workplace.
  • Considering any technological or equipment needs they might need to aid them in their working day.
  • Being aware of mental health issues which are commonly connected to neurodivergent people, and these are also protected under the Equality Act.
  • Avoiding making assumptions or stereotypes of neurodivergent staff as each person faces different challenges – producing an individual plan of action for each employee may be considered the best way forward.
  • Considering the working environment for example providing quiet zones to help those who get overstimulated etc.
  • Making an effort to be understanding, supportive, and ensuring confidentiality.

What happens when you get it wrong?

It is crucial to realise that ‘one size fits all’ policies and practices do not work in a business with a range of individuals. With neurodiversity, you must understand the needs of each employee. Whilst not every neurodivergent will be considered to have a disability under the Equality Act, many will and thus getting it wrong could lead to costly and lengthy discrimination cases.

However, whether considered to have a disability under the act or not, a neurodivergent employee may still initiate a claim in the Employment Tribunal detailing for instance unfair dismissal or another type of discrimination if as an employee you do not handle neurodiversity in the workplace correctly.

How Hegarty Solicitors can help

If you are a neurodivergent employee who feels as though they have been mistreated at work, our employment team can offer you advice and support on how to best deal with the situation at hand.

If you are an employer faced with a discrimination claim from a neurodivergent employee, we can assist in providing you with knowledgeable advice on how to proceed as well as, if it comes to it, negotiating a settlement.

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