18 June marks Autistic Pride Day, a day where those with autism are recognised for their positive contributions to society and celebrated for who they are.

According to autism charity Autistica, there are likely 1 million autistic people in the UK, some of whom will be aware of their condition, and some who won’t be. Of those adults who have been diagnosed as autistic, only 29% are in employment and while some autistic adults may not be able to work the majority would like to.

So, what can employers do to make the workplace more supportive for those with autism to stay in roles, and for autistic adults who would like to join the workforce?

Here, we explore each stage of the recruitment process through to employment and detail how each stage can be made more suitable for those with autism.

Supporting autistic adults in getting roles

Applying for roles

In order to make applying for roles as simple as possible for those with autism, it’s important for employers to get straight to the point with what candidates need to know ahead of applying. This would mean providing details such as the job role specification, location of the role, required skills and process for applying in a simple, understandable format.

This will help ensure candidates with autism know exactly what is expected of them, which in turn will make applying for the job much easier. There are also a number of recruiters who are specifically trained to help those with autism through a recruitment process.

The interview process

If, after applying for a role, someone with autism is offered a job interview there are a number of steps employers can take to ensure an interview is as comfortable as possible for the candidate including:

  • Encouraging and allowing candidates to bring a companion to the interview to aid with confidence.
  • Providing in-depth information as to what the interview will entail prior to it taking place e.g., what sorts of questions they will be asked, and how long the interview will last.
  • Allow for the interview to feel informal.
  • Consider reducing interviewer numbers e.g., one interviewer rather than a panel of three to help the interviewee feel more comfortable.
  • Offer to repeat and rephrase questions and ask questions in clear and concise language.

From a legal perspective, under s159 of the Equality Act 2010, an employer can take voluntary actions to reduce disadvantage for autistic candidates and/or increase representation. For example, if two candidates are equally qualified but one is autistic (and therefore has a protected characteristic of disability), the autistic candidate may be chosen for the role.

Supporting autistic employees in the workplace

If, following the recruitment process an autistic candidate is offered and accepts a role, there are a number of things that can be done to ensure that the working environment is comfortable for them.

Reasonable adjustments

Autism can make work related tasks and situations extremely difficult for some people, and as such making adjustments to a role for someone with autism will help them hugely. Employers should aim to be proactive in offering adjustments and not simply wait for an employee to request adjustments.

Adjustments employers should consider implementing for autistic employees include:

  • Offering more flexible working schedules for autistic employees, such as flexing working hours in order to allow for a quiet and less stressful commute.
  • Offering extra breaks to autistic employees when needed, in order to allow them to relax if the workplace becomes too overwhelming.
  • Providing quiet workspaces, as on occasion loud office spaces can cause sensory issues for those with autism.
  • Company funding for accessibility tools e.g., tech (such as apps and tablets for organisation and task management) and transport support as required.
  • A system of mentoring where new staff with autism are provided with an experienced mentor who is aware of the difficulties autistic people may face in the workplace.


There are two types of training that businesses can consider in order to ensure employees are equipped with the understanding of how to support colleagues with autism:

Disability awareness training

This could include teaching employees about what autism is and how it can affect autistic individuals. It could also consider what challenges autistic employees often experience at work and look at how colleagues can support them on a day-to-day basis, as well as how to report any concerns over the treatment of autistic colleagues.

Management training

Specific training directed towards managers who may have line manager responsibilities that involve managing autistic colleagues. Training may cover topics such as how to ensure that instructions are specific and clearly communicated to autistic employees and how to reduce stress/sensory distractions.

Legal protections

Supporting autistic employees and candidates is not only the right thing to do ethically for employers, but it also comes with legal obligations.

Employees who are autistic may have protection under the Equality Act 2010 if their condition ‘has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’ and therefore amounts to a disability as defined in the Act. If that is the case, then the employee would be protected from discrimination (including direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment). A failure to protect them from discrimination could result in the employee bringing a discrimination claim under the Act and, if successful, being entitled to an uncapped amount of compensation.

Disabled employees also have a right to reasonable adjustments at work, which employers have a legal duty to provide to make sure disabled employees are not at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled colleagues. These could take on a variety of forms and include changes to working hours, working environment, flexible working and additional training.

Final thoughts

It is likely, given the statistics from Autistica at the start of this article, that an employer will at some point have a candidate and/or employee who has autism, so it’s important for businesses to ensure that processes and policies are in place to support them. Employers shouldn’t be ‘kicking the can down the road’ when it comes to the implementation of policies and procedures to support autistic employees, as even if a business doesn’t currently employ an autistic employee, it is much more effective to have policies in place now, rather than chasing one’s tail later down the line when an autistic employee joins the business and there’s nothing in place to support them.

Policies and procedures around supporting those with autism should form part of a wider diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy which is becoming increasingly important for businesses in order to not only attract and retain diverse talent, but also remain legally compliant. If a business is unsure as to whether it is compliant with the rules and regulations around DEI, then a DEI compliance audit can help.

Lorna Harris
Lorna Harris
Legal director at Gateley Legal

Lorna specialises in all aspects of employment law. She acts for larger corporate clients, with sites and operations throughout the UK, in a range of sectors including utilities and energy, health, retail and hospitality.