Government-backed report sets out recommendations to boost autism employment rate

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Signing up for an employers’ neurodiversity index, developing training packages targeted at autistic workers and producing “autism design guides” are among 19 recommendations put forward in a new UK government-backed review on autism in the workplace.

The Buckland Review of Autism Employment, led by Sir Robert Buckland KC for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and published on 28 February, sets out a series of recommendations aimed at supporting people with autism to find employment and succeed in the workplace.

Figures from the DWP show that just 30 per cent of working-age autistic people are in employment, compared with 53.6 per cent of all disabled people and 80 per cent of non-disabled people. Autism charity Autistica, which supported the review, estimates that around 1 in 70 people are autistic, equating to about one million people in the UK.

Figures from the DWP show that just 30 per cent of working-age autistic people are in employment. Photograph: iStock/Drs Producoes

The review found that autistic people receive a third less pay than non-disabled people, on average, and face a wide range of barriers to work, including unfair hiring practices, unclear processes and outdated attitudes by employers.

“Autistic people have far more negative experiences of interviews, group tests and psychometric tests,” said the review, adding that autistic jobseekers “must navigate vague, generic job descriptions, ambiguous interview questions and challenging sensory environments”, which place an emphasis on social skills rather than job skills.

The report has called for businesses and government to work together over the next five years on a number of initiatives aimed at “significantly improving” the autism employment rate.

Suggested initiatives include a national campaign to raise awareness of the benefits that autistic people can bring to the workplace, developing pilot programmes of good practice with larger national or multinational organisations, and providing tailored support to help autistic staff progress their careers.

Working with autism charities to produce “autism design guides” could show employers how to design more supportive environments, according to the report, while the use of Autistica’s Neurodiversity Employers’ Index would enable businesses to measure themselves against best practice and receive guidance on designing “fully inclusive processes, procedures and premises so all staff can receive the support they need, without autistic staff needing to disclose their condition”.  

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP, said he wants autistic people to have “every opportunity to benefit from work”, and that businesses and government “must come together if we are to create the cultural change needed to move the dial”. Stride added that the report “provides employers with practical and inexpensive steps to open up workplaces to autistic people, boost employment rates and, above all, change autistic people’s lives”.

British Safety Council chief executive Mike Robinson has welcomed the report, noting that it “highlights the big opportunities but also barriers which exist for autistic people in the workplace”. He emphasised the importance of listening to autistic employees and making reasonable adjustments based on their personal requirements.

“To help autistic employees thrive once they are in employment, it is vital that their voices are heard and employers make reasonable adjustments that are tailored to their individual needs,” said Robinson.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a more inclusive workplace, but employers and line managers who take the time to listen to their neurodiverse colleagues and ensure they're part of the conversation from day one stand to gain from a wealth of previously untapped skills and potential."

The DWP said it would set up a dedicated taskforce to further the work of the review.  


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