Out-Law News

Rise in UK employment tribunal claims alleging neurodiversity discrimination

Helen Corden tells HRNews about supporting neurodiverse staff in the workplace  

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  • Transcript

    Employment tribunal claims citing neurodiversity are on the rise. Last year tribunals heard 102 cases in which employees said that their neurodiversity was part of the reason for the discrimination they experienced. The data suggests employers either don’t have strategies for dealing with neurodiversity within their workforce, or they do have them but they are not working. We’ll speak to an employment specialist about what is one of the most challenging areas within diversity and inclusion.

    The research is reported by People Management. Of the 102 cases, 30 mention dyslexia, 25 autism, 19 ADHD, 14 dyspraxia and 14 Asperger’s. The article goes on to quote a number of lawyers and experts in the field setting out why we’re seeing the rise in claims and the various steps employers should take to tackle the problem, central of which is a general lack of awareness on the part of managers and a lack of training.

    In separate guidance for employers the CIPD sets out the business case for inclusivity which has become even stronger in the current climate with businesses striving to attract and retain talent. They say: 

    “Neurodiversity is moving up the organisation agenda for two reasons. With the business case for diversity as a whole now accepted, organisations aiming to be truly inclusive employers cannot exclude such a significant demographic as the neurodivergent. To continue doing so risks missing out on talent and compromising on productivity and customer trust. More pertinently, the business case for diversity has highlighted the importance of ‘diversity of thought’ – get people with different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences in a room, and your team will be more innovative and creative. In a sense, neurodiversity may be one of the most challenging areas within diversity and inclusion – complex, nuanced, and often invisible – yet it offers a business upside in this context: given that neurodivergent people literally think differently.”

    A separate and much more detailed piece of research into neurodiversity was published earlier this year highlighting the challenges facing people with invisible disabilities in employment and higher and further education. It is called Invisible Disabilities in Education and Employment and is the work of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology which produces impartial briefings for Parliament from time to time. The report found that those with invisible disabilities are conflicted over whether to disclose them. That is mainly due to concerns about disbelief, stigma or confidentiality, and difficulties accessing the services and support they need. So, in the context of the workplace, something for HR professionals to be aware of. Helen Corden works in the education sector and earlier she joined me by video-link to discuss the report:

    Helen Corden: “It's really useful. It's a really interesting piece of research because it highlights the extent of invisible disabilities. So, for example, it gives this statistic that 70% to 80% of all disabilities are invisible disabilities and when I read this research, I think that really hit home that we need to raise awareness of these invisible disabilities within the workplace because they are so predominant now. It’s also more important because more and more people are being diagnosed with invisible disabilities in adult life, especially those neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia, or autism or dyspraxia. So, it's more important for both managers, for example, and HR teams to be aware that hidden disabilities are more prevalent within the workforce.”

    Joe Glavina: “In the report they highlight adjustment passports as an effective way to help people with disabilities. They are not a legal requirement but nonetheless worth consideration.”

    Helen Corden: “I think the proposed adjustment passport is a is a really interesting one. These are commonly used already in the public sector and also within the education sector and essentially what they do is provide a summary of the individual's disability and then the support or the adjustments that they need in the workplace, or the education setting, in order to support them and allow them to complete their duties. They can be very useful especially in settings, for example, where an individual is moving between departments or moving between different managers because what they can do is that the individual, or that department or manager, can have that passport and the individual then doesn't have to explain on each and every occasion what their disability is, or what their adjustments are. They can give the department or the manager the passport and it's all very clear and it avoid any ambiguity in terms of what is needed, it avoids managers being unaware of what adjustments may be needed. So, they can prove incredibly helpful.”
    That report is by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and is called ‘Invisible Disabilities in Education and Employment’. We’ve put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.

    - Link to report by Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
    - CIPD on Neurodiversity at work


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