Making workplaces autism-friendly

From the TUC handbook, Autism in the Workplace

Many employers assume that they do not need to make any changes until a worker identifies him/herself as autistic and requests adjustments (if they even think about the issue at all!). However, there are plenty of changes that an employer can implement to make the workplace more autism-friendly before an individual requests it. The advantages of doing this are:

  • It will benefit workers who may not be aware that they are on the autism spectrum, who do not have a formal diagnosis, who do not feel ready to ‘come out’ and/or do not have the confidence to ask for changes.
  • A workplace that is more autism-friendly is one that recognises neurological diversity, and is therefore a workplace that is better for all workers.
  • It approaches the issue as a collective issue rather than an individual one – and collective action is what trade unions are all about!
  • Having possible adjustments for individuals listed in a collective policy or agreement will make it easier for the individual to request and receive them when the need arises.

Whether or not there is an identified autistic employee in the workplace, the union may table to the employer demands for:

  • a relaxation space in the workplace: e.g. a quiet room
  • all changes to working practices to be negotiated with the union, and proper notice given before they are introduced
  • reduction in sensory distraction/overload in the workplace: e.g. maximise natural light; enable easy control of light, temperature etc; reduce strong smells
  • information about autism, and about support services, available so that all workers can access it
  • the company’s welfare and/or occupational health services to be equipped to provide assistance
  • training for managers and others about autism, including recognising autistic positives and skills
  • providing paid time off for trade union representatives to attend trade union training and events about autism
  • all instructions and policies to be written and communicated clearly and accurately
  • a variety of tools to assist personal work organisation, for example visual timetables, organiser apps that only objective criteria are used for assessment/promotion
  • that work schedules are adhered to
  • inclusion of autism in harassment and bullying policies, to minimise harassment and bullying of autistic workers and so that managers or employees who bully or discriminate against autistic workers are dealt with appropriately.

Reasonable adjustments for individual autistic workers might include:

  • paid time off when needed
  • fixed hours rather than variable shifts
  • reducing specific sensory stimuli in the workplace, e.g. locating that individual’s workstation in a quieter or less bright part of the office
  • change of work location, for example to be nearer home, or nearer support facilities, or to a work location which is quieter or less over-stimulating
  • extra breaks to enable relaxation
  • providing a mentor
  • individual support where schedules are unavoidably disrupted and when changes are introduced
  • adjustment to the way in which assessments are carried out
  • a clear routine and work schedule
  • a personal workstation (rather than sharing a workstation or ‘hot-desking’) specific tools to aid work organisation, such as a visual timetable or organiser app
  • relaxation of triggers for disciplinary action for matters such as sickness absence or mistakes arising from executive function impairment
  • additional training time off for treatment/appointments, as part of a policy for disabil ity leave
  • re-allocating some work to colleagues, with their agreement.

Access To Work funding may be available for some of these measures. You cansee more information about this here.


Download Page Content (.pdf)