Skip to main content

Neuro-diversity in the workplace

Monday 12 August 2019

Over the last 18 months, there has rightly been a shift of focus onto the strengths of those with neuro-diverse (ND) brains in order to present a more balanced picture of reality. There is also a substantial change coming in the nature of work that is available to people and the environment in which organisations operate.

Recruitment and induction are expensive activities. CIPD estimate the costs of recruitment alone as equivalent to six months’ salary. Added to that, a new employee often takes at least three months before they are contributing significantly in the role. It makes no sense to recruit someone and then not provide them with the environment nor coping strategies they need to do the job effectively, particularly when these are relatively inexpensive for neuro diverse (ND) individuals.

The BDA sees daily through its Helpline that there is a costly and destructive cycle around neuro diversity which is unhelpful to the employer and employee. This pattern shows the ND employee is recruited but does not feel safe to disclose their dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia. The employee works longer hours in order to cope but eventually is unable to maintain performance. They then become even more stressed and their doctor signs them off onto sick leave. Eventually, performance management is started, and the employee discloses their condition. However, by this stage the trust between the employee and their manager is often damaged beyond repair. If the employee is dismissed, the employer risks more potential costs at an Employment Tribunal. Further costs are inevitable through recruiting their replacement. Yet the average cost of reasonable adjustments is £3,121.

The business case is compelling enough but there is a strong moral case too. 1:7 individuals are neuro diverse. That’s 1:7 of our employees, 1:7 of the recruitment pool and 1:7 of our customers. It’s a very large segment of our society. It is also the largest single disability group in the UK but awareness of what these conditions entail is still very low. *EY & Made by Dyslexia Report.

Currently many employers are often working within a compliance culture of implementing reasonable adjustments when they have to. As can be seen above, this is not the best way forward as it so easily results in loss of trust upon which effective working relationships are built. What is needed is an inclusive approach, but the bigger question is how to do it.