In Northern Ireland there is a 21.7% employment rate for autistic adults. This is one of the lowest rates of employment across disabilities, despite many autistic individuals being able and motivated to gain and maintain employment.
April marks Autism Awareness Month, which serves as a reminder to employers and those working alongside individuals with autism of the need to #BeKindToDifferentMinds.
One key reason for the low numbers of autistic individuals employed in Northern Ireland is a lack of understanding about the condition and how to support autistic employees.
What is Autism?
Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates and interacts with others, and how they experience the wider environment. Autism affects people in different ways, with most people experiencing differences (to a greater or lesser extent) in the areas of social communication, social skills and routines, and sensory processing.
Whilst some additional provisions need to be made for autistic individuals in the workplace, help is available to support and guide employers in this area.
Autism Training and Support for Employers
Autism NI provides training and support to employers to help them build confidence and understanding of reasonable adjustments they need to put in place, thus enabling them to become diverse and inclusive employers and benefit from the skills that these individuals bring to the workplace.
Christine Kearney, Director of Development at Autism NI highlights below the key message regarding improving employment opportunities for autistic individuals.
“Employing a diverse workforce makes great business sense. Autistic individuals will have a range of fantastic skills and attributes that they can contribute to the workplace and can be excellent members of the team or workplace. By not understanding autism or by excluding autistic individuals from your workplace, you could be missing out on the best candidate and employee.”
“The Autism Act (NI) 2011 recognises that as a social communication disability, there is a legal obligation to provide reasonable adjustments for autistic individuals within employment, to ensure equal access to opportunities and to avoid disability discrimination. Employers should feel confident to provide reasonable adjustments to autistic individuals at recruitment and selection, induction and through ongoing employee support.”
Autism NI has released a series of short webinars to raise awareness and understanding of autism with the wider public. This one focuses on autism and employment.
Take some time to consider what your company can do to improve employment opportunities for autistic individuals. Perhaps this time next year when Autism Awareness Month comes round, we will see positive increases in the number of autistic individuals employed in Northern Ireland businesses!