What is the autism employment gap?

  • Only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time paid work. This has remained static since 2007.
  • Overall, just 32% of autistic adults are in some kind of paid work.
  • 60% of employers would worry about getting support for an autistic employee wrong, 60% also said they did not know where to go for support or advice about employing an autistic person. 

For nearly a decade, the full-time employment rate of autistic adults has stagnated. A survey we carried out in 2007 indicated that just 15% of autistic people were in full-time paid work. Shockingly, in this year’s survey, the figure was just 16%. You can read our full report here

Thank you to everyone who signed our employment petition in which we called on the Government to put into place several tactics to address the autism employment gap, to double the number of autistic adults in work. We’ve asked the Government to support employers and encourage them to take on autistic employees, as well as develop end-to-end specialist autism support and routinely collect data on the employment rate of autistic people so that we can learn what works. 

So as an employer, how can you play your part?

Being autistic means you see, hear and feel the world in a different way to others. Because autism affects communication skills, people may struggle during job interviews, misunderstand questions and be judged for not making eye contact. 

Sometimes everything can be overwhelming. From the noises of clattering keyboards, to the ringing phones or the unspoken social rules of work life. It can feel like getting too much information. 

Autistic people have much to offer, but without the right support, the work environment can be confusing. Employers have told us of autistic employees who, when supported and understood, are thriving at work. 

A growing number of employers are working with us to offer work experience and internship programmes to help those who are autistic take that first step into full-time work. 

The biggest part you can play, as an employer, is to promote understanding in your workplace. This can be anything from sharing simple tips to booking a workplace assessment and bespoke training

We were shocked to find in our survey that 48% of respondents had experienced bullying or harassment in the workplace due to their autism. Autistic people can be left with lower confidence because of this, which can in term lead to long-term unemployment, greater dependency on others or mental ill health. 

Our tips:

Take time

Some autistic people need a little more time. If you ask a question and don’t get a response straightaway, count to 10 and be patient. Still no answer? Try rephrasing it a bit.

If you write instructions down as well as talking them through, most autistic people will better understand what you’re saying too.

Make plans

Sudden changes in plans or routines can feel like too much information and can cause people to have a meltdown.

If you need to cancel a meeting, give your colleague as much notice as you can and offer new dates. Put proper descriptions in for your meetings, and set agendas so there are no surprises.

Inform yourself

Every autistic person is different so learn more about autism and get to know the person so you can understand how to avoid the TMI effect for them. With a bit of understanding, everyone can be happier. Just remember, it doesn't matter if your autistic colleague doesn't participate in the tea round - they're great at their job.

We would love to hear your positive stories of working alongside autistic colleagues. If you have a story you would like to share with us and others please email richmal.maybank@nas.org.uk.

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