Lets talk disability and employment.
Of 700,000 diagnosed people only 1 in 6 are employed The child who is autistic will eventually be an autistic adult. Also it still maddens me that in the 21st Century the term SEN is used 😡😡 it is not special it is additional!! I was late diagnosed so have the input of navigating employment both without a disability and also with a disability.
If Covid has taught us anything its that employers can adapt and it should make hiring people with neurodiverse conditions or physical disabilities that may need to work from home or be hybrid easier not harder. Now is the perfect time to hone in on this!!
Lets just say in my experience employers need to do a lot more to be inclusive than just advertise the fact they are an equality employer. So it really is a double edged sword disclosing disability. On interview you aren't expected to disclose and an employer cannot ask you if you have a disability just like they cannot ask a woman when or if she is going to start a family. However when you get offered the job its like surpise i'm autistic and I need X, Y and Z to help me perform. You feel like a burden and a liar it is horrible because you have this secret you can't reveal just yet in case it hampers your chances.
However, what employers could do (which they don't) trust me I have had 10 job interviews in 6 months and not one has ever done this:
1. Tell you about the interview process in advance and what to expect.
2. Tell you how many people will be on the zoom call or be interviewing you.
3. Be clear with questions. To be fair on interview my current employer was good at this. They would give examples of their own answers then ask you the question. So they would say "I like to do this on a weekend and have worked here for x amount of years, now tell us a little bit about you"
4. Brag about your HR processes and what you do to be inclusive. It shows you are a forward thinking employer who will go the extra mile to support their employees.
5. When on interview process, if someone says they require reasonable adjustments actually make time for that person to get in touch and speak with them rather than pass them automatically through to the next round. We do not want special treatment we just want to be able to have the same advantages as everyone else. Morrisons is a good example of an employer that passes you to the next stage but I can't pass the next stage because the test is not appropriate for me. I worked there for 5 years and now can't speak to a human being its all multiple choice stuff.
6. Listen to what we have to say. Do not be dismissive.
7. Do not be afraid of offending us. I am open to any questions. I would rather someone ask me so I can correct their terminology than them being fearful of offending me.
8. Work with your employee not against them. Disclosing a disability is a brave thing to do. Appreciate their honesty and make them feel comfortable.
9. If a employee is still struggling after making reasonable adjustments do not put it on them. If you haven't been to occupational health now is the time to do this as they may have further suggestions neither of you have thought of.
10. Treat us the same as everyone else but make it known you are there is needed. What I would say to anyone with any disability is educate yourself on your rights. This is important and will stand you in good stead. You don't need to inform your employer your rights you just need to know them so you can approach any reasonable requests you may need in the correct way.
Where someone meets the definition of a disabled person in the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to any elements of the job which place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people. Please learn your rights. You are entitled to reasonable adjustments and employers have to give really good reasons if they view them unreasonable. They should not be an employer of people if they are not prepared to consider every suitable candidate simple as!
For example, in my job it is very stressful and there are a lot of KPIs however, it is in the construction industry and I am really interested in building and the process and I find I am easily engaged in my role. It means I treat calling people to research projects as a chat rather than as a thing I have to do. I enjoy it on the most part. Just the stress of last week of target I don't. I created a fact sheet for my team about me. Was given the floor on a morning teams call supported by my manager where they could ask me any questions. I chose to do this because masking is hard and its just better to be honest. My managers are very supportive and are working hard with me to overcome the challenges of having to break my routine I have built to past 3 months at home to return to an open plan office which, will be in 1 weeks time.
Many will say why bother with a job if it is that hard. Well why should I sit at home claiming benefit when I have a degree and did everything I was meant to do just because I struggle with noises and people. I enjoy working. I will never be a high paid director or manager because I can't play this bloody game everyone keeps talking about. I therefore accept a salary way below my mental capability and intelligence and cut my cloth to fit my table. As long as I am stretched and feel challenged and respected for what I do that is enough. More than any amount of money.
For the smaller employers and people who have money this is where you can really make a difference. Just because someone needs a desk by a window, noise cancelling headphones or different tasks to keep them focussed it does not make them less. You may be missing out on an employee that can improve your business by bringing a new and different insight. I can tell straight away if I will be comfortable working for you. I have turned down jobs due to inadequate breaks, office space and atmosphere. Also you may have an employee who is too afraid to disclose and struggling. I know many autistics who aren't out there yet. Trust me I get PMs to!!
Disability is not a Dirty Word - Discrimination is
Click the picture to see how my employer supported me
I am lucky my current employer is onboard with Autism Awareness
Disability is not a dirty word - discrimination is