- Autistic people face a number of barriers to the traditional workplace including lack of accommodation and supports and perceptions of bias and discrimination.
- 6 in 10 afraid to be open about their diagnosis.
- 80% more likely to disclose their diagnosis if confident they would be supported.
- Half of employers are unsure what reasonable accommodations an autistic staff member might require.
- 6 in 10 employers lack a dedicated autism friendly policy.
Almost 6 in 10 (58%) of people within Ireland’s autistic community fear that being open about their diagnosis to an employer would worsen their chances of finding their preferred role. This is according to new research published today by leading hiring platform IrishJobs and Ireland’s national autism charity AsIAm.
The Autism in the Workplace report, published just ahead of World Autism Day on Sunday, 2nd April, assesses the attitudes of more than 461 Irish autistic people and businesses of the workplace and employment. The report builds upon the findings made in the first edition of the Autism in the Workplace Report in March 2021.
According to the report, fears around disclosing their diagnosis and worsening their employment chances means that fewer than 20% of autistic people received any supports or reasonable accommodations during the recruitment process for their current role. 40% did not made their current employer aware of their diagnosis at all, while just 15% disclosed their diagnosis before or at interview stage.
This is in spite of the fact that 8 in 10 autistic people find most recruitment processes to be inaccessible to them.
80% of autistic people also said they would be likely to disclose their autism diagnosis if they were sure the employer or client would be supportive, however, the same percentage do not feel confident that employers, managers, colleagues and clients know enough about autism to support them.
In fact, of those autistic people in employment, more than half (51%) admit they find current supports and accommodations to be insufficient. Yet, the vast majority (94%) of autistic people believe that, with the right supports, they would be an asset to any business or organisation.
Lack of understanding
Compounding the lack of communication between autistic people and employers is a lack of understanding and education among businesses.
Only just over a third of businesses believe their staff know enough about autism to support an autistic colleague. In addition, half of the organisations surveyed said they don’t know what reasonable accommodations an autistic staff member might require. Just over two-thirds of recruiters also said they believe or are unsure about whether it would be more difficult to hire an autistic person, while 58% don’t provide unconscious bias training to interview panels which includes information about autism.
Despite these barriers, some signs of positive progress are emerging. The vast majority (98%) of recruiters who employ autistic people believe that they make a positive contribution to the workplace, with 50% claiming to have at least one autistic staff member, up 21% on the previous report. Over three-quarters of employers (84%) also say that new ways of working are opening up new opportunities to recruit autistic talent.
Available Government supports
The research suggests that more education is needed to bridge the gap between employers and autistic people. The Irish Government provides a number of supports for employers hiring autistic individuals. However, despite it being a 26% improvement on 2021, 58% of businesses surveyed in the report say they are unaware of the current supports and schemes.
The same problem arises when it comes to availing of supported employment or advocacy organisations. Just 23% of businesses have used supported employment or advocacy organisations to assist in recruiting or retaining autistic talent in the past, while almost a quarter are unsure if they have. Availing of these supports would help employers to further unlock the potential of autistic talent, 96% of whom believe that businesses and organisations can do more to provide employment or entrepreneurship opportunities for autistic people.
It would also support employers to put more structures in place for autistic people in the workplace. The majority of businesses have an official diversity and inclusion policy but only 23% said their policy covers people with autism. In addition, while improved by 15% on 2021, the majority of businesses (61%) still do not have or are unsure about whether they have a dedicated autism friendly policy. 10% said their business has one but they are not familiar with it, while just 29% said their business has one and it is strongly implemented.
Commenting on the new findings, Sam McIlveen, Managing Director, StepStone Ireland, parent company of IrishJobs, said: “At IrishJobs, we’re proud to publish our latest Autism in the Workplace Report in partnership with Ireland’s national autism charity AsIAm. From our previous report, published in 2021, we know that autistic people across Ireland face a number of challenges in the employment landscape and so, this year, we set out to gain a more up-to-date picture of the attitudes of more than 461 Irish autistic people and businesses of the workplace and employment.”
“Despite a number of improvements, including in relation to the number of autistic people employed across Ireland, it’s clear that several barriers remain to their full integration within the workplace. Foremost of these is the fear felt by autistic people around disclosing their diagnosis to a potential employer. This is compounded by a lack of confidence in the employer and the supports they can require.
“Despite the barriers that exist, there is evidence of green shoots. Compared to 2021, we see more employers reporting that they have autism-friendly practices in place, and more are aware of supports they need to recruit in this area. New ways of working are also opening up greater opportunities to recruit autistic talent. Amidst a tighter labour market for employers, at IrishJobs and AsIAm, we’re confident that the findings and recommendations contained in today’s report will create further opportunities for businesses not only to learn more about autism but to unlock the full potential of autistic talent.”
Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm, said: “AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity, is delighted to present our latest Autism in the Workplace Report, in partnership with IrishJobs. The publication of this report builds on the findings made in our first edition in 2021 and on the significant work undertaken by our two organisations in opening a dialogue with employers on the importance of creating opportunities for autistic talent.”
“The survey clearly shows that autistic people would be more inclined to share their experiences and access support in the workplace if they could be confident in the response of employers. This requires planned outreach by employers and an openness to different approaches to recruitment than the traditional interview process which is the first great hurdle for many within our community. To address this challenge, employers need to think boldly about how to access talent from within a community that communicates, thinks and experiences the environment very differently to others.
Meanwhile, employers are also struggling to attract, recruit and support autistic talent. This is unsurprising when you consider that most businesses are unaware of current schemes or supports available to them. At AsIAm and IrishJobs, we are helping to address this challenge through our Same Chance Commitment and toolkit, which offers a step-by-step guide to becoming an autism-friendly employer and offers businesses the chance to pledge their support to create autism-friendly workplaces. By availing of these supports, businesses can not only learn more about how to support autistic talent in the workplace, but they can empower autistic people to be more open about their diagnosis, leading to a place of greater inclusivity and shared communication and understanding.”
Download the full IrishJobs I AsIAm 2023 Autism in the Workplace Report here.