Employee Experience

Neurodiversity at Work: Create a Culture of Support & Inclusivity

4 April 2023

Neurodiversity Celebration Week took place from the 13th to the 19th of March, aiming to raise global awareness of neurodiversity and celebrate different minds. Read on to discover what living and working with neurodiversity is like and how to create an inclusive and supportive workplace.

You may wonder why we’ve waited to post this article until now, but there’s a good reason for the delay. When it comes to subjects like neurodiversity, we like to get our insights from the source. Since three of our Pluxee UK colleagues were eager to host a podcast on neurodiversity in the workplace, we waited to hear what they had to say.


What does neurodiversity mean?


Neurodiversity is the name given to the range of brain functions in the human population. A common misconception given to the neurodiverse mind is that it isn’t ‘normal’. The reality is that there is no normal when it comes to how brains work. Every mind functions differently.


Wikipedia specifies that brains are neurodiverse with regard to sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions.


All these areas present as characteristics that make those with neurodiversity, such as dyslexia and autism, learn and interact differently.


Why we need to talk about neurodiversity in the workplace...


Statistics suggest that 15% to 20% of the population are considered neurodiverse, equating to approximately one in seven adults. This means that in an organisation of 250 people, 35 employees could be considered neurodiverse.


When HR Grapevine publishes statistics suggesting that only 16% of UK workers believe their workplace or employer is inclusive to neurodivergent employees, it solidifies the need to keep these conversations in the spotlight.


The benefits of a diverse workforce...


“Studies have found that neurodivergent teams are 30% more productive than neurotypical ones and made fewer errors.” HR Grapevine


Additionally, studies show that diverse and inclusive teams are 87% more effective at ideation. To be neurodiverse is to think differently, and different ways of thinking and problem-solving within a team will always be beneficial.


The legalities


Whilst those with a neurodivergence, such as ADHD, dyslexia or autism, wouldn’t consider themselves to have a disability. Legally, they are a ‘hidden disability’ listed as protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.


This means that neurodiverse employees or job candidates are to be protected from any form of discrimination during the recruitment process and their time in employment.


It also means employers must make reasonable adjustments to meet a neurodiverse employee's needs. However, this is quite a grey area because employees are not obligated to share their neurodiversity with their employers.


As such, the onus on the employer is to make those adjustments only if they could reasonably be expected to know.


The Equality Act 2010 in action


Here, you can read two examples of where the Equality Act 2010 was brought into employment tribunals, with fired neurodiverse employees citing discrimination. One case favoured the employee who had been open about their ADHD and had requested a reasonable measure. The other found in favour of the employer, who had not been made aware of the employee’s neurodiversity. It was also determined that, in this case, the employer could not have been expected to know.


You could argue, therefore, that there is a case for all employees informing their employer about their neurodiversity. However, during our podcast, Pluxee UK employee, Lynne Foster-Jones, who wasn’t diagnosed with autism until adulthood, shared her thoughts.


“I can understand why people are apprehensive. A lot of people don’t understand, and it’s very hard to get them to understand, especially because everyone is different and has such different needs.” 


On the other side of this, during our podcast, Elena Bueno-Davies advised that a member of her team states that she has dyslexia in her email signature. Disclosure is a personal choice, and people can be at different stages of their relationship with their neurodiversity.


Awareness, communication, & education


We must remember that an employee isn’t at liberty to inform their employer or colleagues of their neurodiversity, so education and awareness of neurodiversity, especially among managers, is essential.


When managers understand that all minds work differently, they become more flexible in their approach to working practises.


Once again, we’re calling for equity over equality.


During our podcast, Lynne shared that she once worked for a manager who applied a ‘one-fits-all’ approach to her team with the understanding that it was fair to use the same rule for everyone. However, this could be indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 since it doesn’t account for the needs of neurodiverse employees, who may need a different approach.


Career development


Those with neurodiversity, such as dyslexia or autism, learn differently. This needs to be factored into how internal courses are delivered to ensure every employee is given a fair opportunity to progress.


Those with dyslexia or autism, for example, often need visual aids, making video learning a must. Online learning also allows people to learn at their own pace, reducing stress.


Creating a culture of support


We’ve established that much support comes from educating your business leaders and managers in neurodiversity. Through this enhanced awareness, they can create a more positive workplace experience and get the best from their people.


Employers must also create an environment where employees feel safe so they’re confident in talking about their neurodiversity and can communicate their needs. One way to do this is by embedding employee wellbeing and all it entails into your business’s core values.


We’ve got many resources on embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion into your business, so please feel free to read them.


If you’re looking to embed a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing strategy into your business, or enhance what’s already on offer, request our free Wellbeing Strategy Pack. Alternatively, request a call from our employee engagement and wellbeing experts.