Disability discrimination legislation prohibits discrimination against disabled people in employment and in the provision of goods and services. Service providers and employers must make reasonable adjustment to their premises or employment arrangements so as not to discriminate.
If a neurodiverse person's difficulties are severe enough to impede efficiency in everyday activities, then he or she may be covered by the Equality Act as one of the Act’s Protected Characteristics - disability.
Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are respected like any other human variation and includes those who have labels such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autistic spectrum disorder, dyscalculia and others.
You may find that these labels or conditions are referred to as learning differences or learning difficulties, but for the purposes of The Equality Act 2010, they may be treated as disabilities. (More information on what is counted as a disabiltiy under the Act)
The service provider or employer is obliged to make 'reasonable adjustments' to reduce or remove any substantial disadvantage caused to that person by any of the employment or service provision arrangements in that are in force.
Examples in the workplace where a neurodiverse person could be unfairly disadvantaged:
- making a job application
- proficiency tests
- terms of employment
- transfer opportunities
- dismissal or redundancy procedures
An employer must not refuse to employ someone simply because they have a disability. They also have a duty to think about different ways of working.
Disclosure of neurodiversity in the workplace
It is up to the individual whether they want to declare their disability. They are not obliged to do so. The following stages are appropriate times to declare:
- on an application form or C.V
- before or at an interview
- after being offered the position
- upon starting the position
- later on, once in position.
Anticipatory Duty and neurodiversity - the provision of information
When you provide information as part of your service, the Equality Act (2010) says that you “must not discriminate against, harass or victimise people because of a protected characteristic in:
- what the information itself says;
- the way it is provided”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission explains the anticipatory duty:
“…this means an organisation cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use its services, but must think in advance (and on an ongoing basis) about what disabled people with a range of impairments might reasonably need, such as people who have a visual impairment, a hearing impairment, a mobility impairment or a learning disability.”
Making reasonable adjustments for neurodiversity
Adjustments for people who are neurodiverse can be simple and inexpensive. A willingness to be flexible is the most important thing. So when you provide information as part of your service, you should start to do so in alternative formats. Although it depends on your circumstances, this is likely to be a reasonable adjustment which you must make. You cannot wait until a neurodiverse person wants to use your services, but must think in advance about what people with a range of disabilities might reasonably need.
For more on the Equality Act and making reasonable adjustments in the workplace go to: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/multipage-guide/employment-workplace-adjustments
For more on the Equality Act and making reasonable adjustments with regards to using a service go to: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/multipage-guide/using-service-reasonable-adjustments-disabled-people
Jan Halfpenny trains on neurodiversity and conducts workplace assessments for employers.