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What is neurodiversity and why is it important for employers?

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This week is neurodiversity celebration week. This article explains what neurodiversity is, how a neurodiverse workforce can benefit employers, and how you can make your workplace more neurodiverse and inclusive.

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a term that can be used to measure and describe the difference of mental abilities in a business including, but not limited to:

  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Dyspraxia
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Tourette’s syndrome

People who are considered neurodiverse have variations in their brains regarding mental functions that control interaction and other academic abilities. Examples of this may include:

  • Social interaction
  • Learning abilities
  • Attention and focus

Neurodiversity in law

Under the Equality Act 2010, a neurodivergent individual may be regarded as disabled if they have “a physical or mental impairment” which has “a substantial and long-term adverse effect” on their “ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”. By law, an employer must “make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, aren’t substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs”. This means making reasonable adjustments when you know, or could be expected to know, an employee or job applicant has a disability or the employee asks for adjustments.

Failure to make this considerations and adjustments may lead to your business facing accusations of disability discrimination and ultimately an Employment Tribunal claim. There is no limit for the compensation awarded on disability discrimination claims. Whilst the median disability discrimination payout is around 13K which is difficult enough for many businesses to find, in a standout case of disability discrimination in 2019, the claimant was awarded just over £265,000 in compensation.

The benefits

There are many benefits that a business can gain from having a neurodiverse team of employees.

Neurodivergent individuals are able to provide different perspectives on situations that other people may not think about. This can be very beneficial in growing a business and expanding in new and innovative ways. Some businesses have found that by specifically recruiting from a neurodivergent pool they are able to gain skills that are much more prevalent within that pool such as increased creativity, the ability to focus for long periods of time or to analyse ‘big data’. 

Bringing neurodiversity into the workplace can also give opportunities for other employees to understand the needs of a neurodivergent individual and how to work with more varied perspectives, whether that be a fellow employee, or a client or customer. 

The neurodiversity standpoint is that the differences in a neurodiversity individual aren’t deficits and are part of the mainstream.  This doesn’t however mean that disability if a conflicting concept.  Being diagnosed with a disability gives people from the neurodiverse community protection under the law and it can help employees to become included at work through appropriate support if they need it – not all neurodiverse individuals will need changes to the workplace.

How to incorporate neurodiversity into the workplace

There are many approaches that businesses can take in order to encourage neurodiversity in their workplaces. For example, the Civil Service uses a system called ‘Workplace Adjustment Passports’  These passports contain details regarding the individual’s preferred working style and can travel through the individual’s Civil Service career with them. These preferences may include working from home or flexible working hours to allow them to work when and where they are most productive. They may also contain details of circumstances that the individual is more comfortable working in.  For example, where generally employees are required to hot desk in a team but the constant change of workspaces is challenging for someone who suffers with autism or an acute high functioning mental condition, they may prefer and have it agreed that they will have their own personal fixed workspace.

Other physical adaptions to the workplace can assist neurodivergent individuals in their work such as specific IT equipment such as colour filters on computer screens, using a dark mode on their computers or apps in order to reduce visual strain or digital dictation systems or mind map software to aid language processing.

Neurodiversity can be encouraged through alternative recruitment processes.  Some individuals may not excel in formal interviews and prefer to complete written exercises or tests to show they are at least as capable of performing the job as a neurotypical person.

Something as simple as learning to adjust the language which we use at work to be more inclusive can be something to put a neurodivergent individual at ease and to increase their sense of belonging within the workplace, further boosting morale, work quality and the communication between all employees and clients.

Introducing neurodiversity into the workplace can provide great benefits to you and your business, but also allows neurodivergent individuals to have the same opportunities in life and their careers as neurotypical individuals.


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.

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