What are reasonable adjustments?

Many autistic people can bring some amazing skills into the workplace, and we have previously explored all the untapped talent that so many people are missing out on.

In order for anyone to strive, it is essential to have understanding, belief and support. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and it is imperative that we are all used to the best of our ability and equipped. By making small changes in your workplace you will be able to help support an autistic person achieve their goals.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

A reasonable adjustment is a change or adjustment unique to a person’s needs that will support them to do their job. This may be an adjustment to the workplace or work practices that supports the employee without being too impractical, expensive or unrealistic for the employer to provide. It can be anything from simply providing written information like agendas to having a workplace adviser.

In many cases, having reasonable adjustments in place is the difference between an individual being able to continue working which will ultimately impact on their whole life. Making a few small adjustments to enable a member of staff to continue doing their job will enable them to have a fulfilling career but also from a business perspective is far less expensive than the costs incurred through recruiting and training a new employee.

In employment, a reasonable adjustment can include:

  • making changes to the environment where the person works eg reduced noise and dimmed lighting
  • changing processes and forms of communication eg adjusting to the autistic employee’s preferred choice of communication such as written instructions or using visual prompts.

Some employees will be very aware of their specific needs and might be able to request their own adaptations. Other employees will not be aware and may need specialist support to help identify their specific needs.

The National Autistic Society's employment training team provide workplace assessments as well as training which will help you to identify what adaptations could be made to ensure your employee is reaching their full potential. We advise on management techniques and ways to communicate effectively.

Taking the steps to support your employee can have a positive effect on the business as a whole. Proactive management of employees’ difficulties can produce a range of benefits, including reduction of sickness absence, greater staff engagement and productivity, and reduced staff turnover.

Top tips for making reasonable adjustments

1.  Learn about autism - In order to understand how your autistic employee experiences the workplace, it is vital to have a good understanding of how they experience the world.

2.   Look at it from a fresh perspective - Sometimes, an outsider looking in on a situation can help gain insight into the bigger picture. Maybe you have become used to the environment you work in, you may find it difficult to imagine how another person is experiencing your workplace.

3.  Ask your employee about their preferred method of communication - Many people with autism prefer non-verbal methods of communication. Think of different ways to give instructions.

4.  Be realistic - Things won’t change overnight. Give trying new adjustments time and try to implement one adjustment at a time.

5.  Set clear goals and timelines - Have something to work towards and do what you say.

If you’d like to connect with like-minded professionals and find out more information about autism, best practice and what has worked for others, why not join Network Autism.

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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