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Autistic voices from the workplace

Ross Cooper (AchieveAbility, London, UK)
Craig Kennady (AchieveAbility, London, UK)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 24 March 2021

Issue publication date: 24 March 2021

912

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to give autistic employees a voice, evaluate their work-based experiences and to disseminate the relevant recommendations of the Westminster AchieveAbility Commission report.

Design/methodology/approach

These experiences were identified through a questionnaire answered by 600 neurodivergent employees, including 95 autistic respondents. This allowed us to compare experiences across neurodivergent categories.

Findings

The overwhelmingly negative work-place experience is consistent at every stage unless managers had a good understanding of neurodivergence. This deteriorated further the more categories of neurodivergence identified with, and minority ethnicity. Few reasonable adjustments were made. Psychometric tests are experienced as disabling. No statistically significant differences were found between genders.

Research limitations/implications

The target group are not representative of the wider autistic population and the sample is relatively small. Further research could look at how managers come to understand neurodivergence, the utilisation of reasonable adjustments and how to promote neurodivergence awareness.

Practical implications

There need to be wholesale changes in recruitment and reasonable adjustments in the workplace, which will require substantial changes in attitudes.

Social implications

The experience of neurodivergent people in the work-place, including autistic employees, was more consistently negative than expected. It was difficult to find any autistic employees without disabling experiences. This paper hopes this will alert wider society to the issues and may serve to support more solidarity amongst neurodivergent people in relation to employment. The findings have already influenced The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

Originality/value

There is very little detailed research focussed on the work-place experience and voices of autistic employees and less research that considers the implications of neurodivergent overlaps in the workplace.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank AchieveAbility for funding the Westminster AchieveAbility Commission, and all those who gave evidence.

Citation

Cooper, R. and Kennady, C. (2021), "Autistic voices from the workplace", Advances in Autism, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 73-85. https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-09-2019-0031

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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