In our new survey, over a third of adults with autism (35%) say they have previously experienced bullying or discrimination at work, and 43% say they have left or lost a job because of their condition.
This highlights that there is a lack of support for people with autism in the workplace, combined with a lack of awareness of the condition amongst employers and colleagues.
In our 50th year, we are renewing our call on employers to ensure support is in place for employees with autism so that they have the opportunity to make a valuable contribution to society like everyone else.
According to the survey, the largest ever on autism, among adults with autism currently in paid employment:
- just 10% have employment support, despite 53% saying they would like it
- 32% say the support or adjustments made by their employer/manager in relation to their autism is poor
- 30% say the support or adjustments made by their colleagues in relation to their autism is poor
- 38% say the suitability of the work environment in relation to their autism is poor
- only 19% say that they have no experience of bullying, unfairness or lack of support at work.
Penny Andrews, an adult with Asperger syndrome, said:
I was in a job for three years and was bullied by my colleagues throughout. It wasn't anything explicit so it was hard to make a formal complaint, but they regularly mocked me behind my back, left me out of social arrangements, and made sarcastic comments that I took literally, because of my condition, and they’d then laugh at me and call me 'stupid'. It got me down so much that I would have taken any job to get out of the situation. I had no support from management, many of whom joined in, and when I did go to someone senior to complain I was made to feel it was my fault, and told I should 'make more of an effort to fit in with the team'.
The whole experience completely shattered my confidence and eventually I had to leave. I am scared that if I go into another job the same thing will happen and if an interviewer ever asks me a question about 'teamwork' I panic and think they're purposely trying to trip me up. What I hope for future is to find a job where I am well supported by my employers and colleagues so that I can go to work happy and enthused and perform the role to the best of my ability.
David Perkins, Manager of our employment service, Prospects, said:
It is unacceptable in the current economic climate that some employers are failing to put reasonable support in place to keep adults with autism in work and off benefits.
It needs to be nationally understood and accepted that bullying or discrimination of any kind in the workplace is deplorable and bullying or discriminating against a colleague because of their disability is tantamount to anti-disability abuse. We urge employers across the UK to make sure their offices have an 'autism-friendly' ethos; otherwise we risk failing thousands of willing and able workers.
We are celebrating our 50th birthday on 17 May and will be publishing a report of the survey, The way we are: autism in 2012. The full report will be available online on our website at the end of the month.