2.1 Exploring discrimination
Neurodivergent individuals are protected against discrimination under the characteristic of disability. But there are still many employers who have a limited understanding of what neurodivergence means.
Owen (2020) describes the findings from a recent report by the Institute of Leadership and Management, which polled 1156 managers.
‘[The report] revealed the highest level of bias was against employees with Tourette’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – with one in three businesses (32 per cent) saying they would be uncomfortable employing or managing someone with either of those conditions.
One in four respondents (26 per cent) said they would be uncomfortable taking on someone with dyscalculia, with the same number saying this about autism. One in five (19 per cent) said the same for dyspraxia, and one in 10 (10 per cent) cited dyslexia.’
He goes on to explain that ‘It is a common misconception that people having one of these conditions, such as dyslexia or autism, are less intelligent and less able, whereas in fact there is no association between intelligence and neurodiversity.’
Examples of discrimination (Turner & Andrew, no date)
- An employer required all applicants for a particular post to pass a psychometric test. An autistic applicant said that the test discriminated against people with autistic spectrum conditions. The employer’s own equality and diversity monitoring data showed that only one self-declared autistic applicant had previously passed the test. The claim of discrimination succeeded at Tribunal.
- A manager incorrectly assumes, based on flawed stereotypes, that a neurodivergent worker is unable to complete certain tasks. They repeat this view to other workers and make patronising comments regarding the neurodivergent worker’s capabilities. This behaviour is likely to constitute harassment.
- An employer uses a person specification for an accountant’s post that states ‘employees must be confident in dealing with external clients’ when in fact the job in question does not involve liaising directly with external clients. This requirement is unnecessary and could lead to discrimination against disabled people who have difficulty interacting with others, such as some people with autism.
There is clearly a need to enhance awareness of these conditions, along with the needs of neurodivergent individuals within the workplace and the adjustments that might be required to support them.