Autism is a trade union issue

From the TUC handbook, Autism in the Workplace

Autism is an issue for trade unions, because:

  • Most autistic people can work, including in ‘normal’ (whatever that may mean!) workplaces.
  • Where adults with autism do not work, it is often because working conditions are unsuitable, and/or because they have had jobs but have not been able to continue with them because of issues such bullying, discrimination or a lack of reasonable adjustments.
  • Many trade union members have caring responsibility for autistic dependants.
  • Parents of autistic kids (or carers of adult autistic dependants) are entitled to work – and may well need to.
  • Autistic kids of school age will usually be attending school.
  • Appropriate care for autistic children may well not mean isolation at home with a parent.
  • Trade unions must speak up for autistic workers, but not because autistic workers cannot speak up for themselves.
  • People with autism have various means of communication – some are more verbal than others.
  • Trade unions are the bodies through which autistic and other workers can organise and speak up for themselves.
  • Trade unions are working-class organisations, and the working class is neurologically diverse. Trade unions must unite all workers, and overcome division and discrimination.
  • Understanding autism can help trade unions improve our own ways of working.

Autism, unemployment and under-employment

There are about 332,600 people of working age in the UK with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Only 15 per cent of adults with autism are in full-time employment; only 9 per cent are in part-time employment.

Fifty-one per cent of adults with autism in the UK have spent time with neither a job nor access to benefits, 10 per cent of those having been in this position for a decade or more.

Sixty-one per cent of those out of work say they want to work.

Seventy-nine per cent of those on Incapacity Benefit say they want to work.

Fifty-three per cent of adults with autism said they want help to find work, but only 10 per cent are getting the support.

Twenty-six per cent of graduates with autism are unemployed.

(above stats: National Autistic Society)

Only 11 per cent of carers who have children with autism work full-time, and 70 per cent say the lack of appropriate care facilities stops them working.

(Ambitious About Autism)

“Jack, 12, ran away from his school in Hertfordshire, broke into his own home and rang his mum to say that he was hungry. The school insisted that his mum take him home every lunchtime because it ‘cannot cope’ with him. Jack’s mother had to give up her job. A volunteer supporter is trying to get her some free specialist help so she can ‘take on the system’ and get Jack back to school.”
The Observer magazine, 28 October 2007

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