Half of leaders and managers would not employ a neurodivergent person

People with neurodivergent conditions are more likely to be excluded in the workplace and less likely to be hired

There is a significant lack of understanding of neurodivergent conditions in the workplace, according to new research from the Institute of Leadership & Management.

The research into neurodiversity in the workplace found that half of leaders and managers would be uncomfortable employing someone who has one or more neurodivergent conditions.

Despite one in seven people being neurodivergent, employers remain hesitant towards hiring neurodivergent employees. Percentages of employers who would be uncomfortable employing or managing someone with one or more neurodivergent conditions are:

  • Tourette syndrome – 32%
  • ADHD/ADD – 29%
  • Dyscalculia – 26%
  • Autism – 25%
  • Dyspraxia – 19%
  • Dyslexia – 10%

Negative stereotypes and lack of education are where it begins, says Suzanne Dobson, CEO Tourettes Action: “When we are trying to restart our economy we cannot afford to marginalise so many creative and intelligent people.

“People living with Tourette Syndrome (TS) are especially marginalised as people mistakenly believe everyone with TS has the swearing tic, coprolalia, whereas only 10-15% do. Yet, those making recruitment decisions sift neurodivergents out very quickly.”

Managers and leaders in the construction, engineering and manufacturing sectors had the most significant concerns, with 32% saying they would be uncomfortable hiring autistics and 29% not being comfortable to hire dyscalculics.

Employers should start seeing the benefits of having neurodivergent staff, says Claire Smith, CEO Autistic Nottingham: “Most employers are scared to hire neurodiverse people as they only calculate risks based on the deficits of the condition.

“This research will not only enable employers to see the strengths that neurodiverse people bring to the workforce but will also contribute to the existing research that is currently available in the field of neurodiversity.”

Organisations are not doing enough

Neurodivergents feel that their workplaces are not doing enough to ensure their colleagues behave inclusively towards them, but their neurotypical colleagues feel otherwise.

Over half of autistics (60%), dyspraxics (55%) and dyscalculics (53%) reported that people in their workplace behave in a way that excludes neurodivergent colleagues.

However, the majority (63%) of neurotypical respondents believe they have a high level of knowledge and awareness into neurodivergent conditions, particularly concerning dyslexia and autism.

While this might seem encouraging, the levels of discrimination demonstrated in the research may suggest knowledge and awareness is not as high as neurotypicals think.

Listening to neurodivergents on these problems is the first step, says Kieran Rose, Managing Director Infinite Autism: “Recognising the unique lived experiences of neurodivergent people is fundamental to identifying and understanding the issues neurodivergents face in the workplace.

“This research is key to empowering neurodivergent workers and creating safe, equitable and accessible environments where their potential can be unlocked.”

Neurodivergence in diversity and inclusion

The research also identified a lack of neurodiversity in organisations’ diversity and inclusion policies, and in their bullying and harassment policies and procedures.

Only 27% of respondents could say they were certain that appropriate references were included in their diversity and inclusion policies. 

Kate Cooper, Head of Research, Policy and Standards at The Institute of Leadership & Management, said: “Although our findings show varying levels of inclusion in different sectors, there is a serious absence of references to neurodiversity in official policies and procedures across the board.

“Given one in seven people are estimated to be neurodivergent, we ask that leaders consider how this is impacting talent acquisition and employee retention.”

She continued with recommendations for organisations: “We recommend business leaders look into providing more unconscious bias and inclusion training for all staff, along with ensuring managers are fully aware of the range of reasonable adjustments that can be made to support neurodivergent staff.

“We also recommend organisations review their policies and procedures on inclusion, bullying and harassment to ensure they include provisions for their neurodivergent colleagues. A fully inclusive workforce is not only likely to be more innovative and productive but also more compassionate, an environment that is good for all employees.”


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