Job title: Workplace Support Consultant
What does your role entail?
My role involves supporting employees with an autism diagnosis, including Asperger syndrome, and occasionally those seeking a diagnosis. I visit people regularly at their workplace to discuss issues around communication, relationships with colleagues, managing anxiety and organisational skills. The workplace can be confusing for autistic people and it is helpful for them to have some of the many ‘unwritten rules’ explained. Line managers generally join for some part of the meeting to gain a deeper understanding of the needs and concerns of their autistic and to liaise over appropriate solutions, strategies or adjustments that may be helpful. I am also able to refer employees, their managers and colleagues to the wider employment services at The National Autistic Society such as specific training courses.
What kind of reasonable adjustments can help an autistic employee?
Under the 2010 Equality Act, employees with a disability are entitled to reasonable adjustments at work to minimise the disadvantageous effects of their disability. The types of adjustments that may be put in place for an employee with autism include:
- Making sure the team have some understanding of autism and how it can affect someone in the workplace.
- Making sure instructions are clear, concise and specific, and, if necessary, backed up in writing.
- A structured working environment. Timetables can be helpful.
- A buddy or mentor to provide guidance, reassurance and to discuss specific issues.
- Awareness of sensory sensitivity and appropriate adjustments to the workspace. For example, someone with hypersensitivity to noise will benefit from being seated in a quiet area and may use noise cancelling headphones, if necessary.
What impact have you seen within your role?
Workplace support from an external mentor with an understanding of autism is a reasonable adjustment for an employee as it allows them to discuss issues openly with someone outside of their line management who can then hopefully go on to suggest strategies to both the employee and their manager and colleagues that will lead to a smooth working relationship.
Many people with autism report having lost a job because of their condition. Effective workplace support, including an awareness amongst managers and colleagues of how somebody with autism reacts and interacts, can prevent situations arising or escalating and therefore can enable people on the spectrum to stay in employment and to progress.
The impact I have seen in my role is an increased level of security and confidence both from employees and from colleagues and managers. Autistic employees have many skills and abilities which can make them valuable assets to their employers and with the appropriate support, they can flourish and their valuable contribution can be recognised.
How can employees access this type of support?
Employees can access this kind of support by disclosing their disability to their employer and requesting that their employer fund workplace support as a reasonable adjustment. If the employer is not able to fund support directly, an employee could make an application for funding to the government Access to Work scheme.
For more information about workplace consultancy please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.