Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders                               (2022 )Cite this article

Workplace Adjustments for Autistic Employees: What is ‘Reasonable’?

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2022-01-15 08:30:06

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2022 )Cite this article

Autistic adults are inadequately supported in the workplace. This study sought a definition of ‘reasonable’ and explored facilitators and barriers to employers making reasonable adjustments. 98 employers and employees across a UK city completed a survey; 15% identified as being autistic. Qualitative data were analysed using framework analysis. Reasonable adjustments were defined as having a positive impact on autistic employees’ wellbeing and work outputs without being detrimental to non-autistic employees or the organisation; they were low cost and easily implemented. Recommendations were for autism awareness training, low-stimulus work spaces, clear instructions and flexible working hours. A definition of reasonable is added to the literature, with suggestions of where to invest support efforts. Recommendations mostly apply to the education sector.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD, referred to throughout as autism; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) is a lifelong condition, with widely variable individual expressions and support needs, which go beyond early identification and intervention (Taylor et al., 2012; Whelpley et al., 2020). Notably, better understanding is needed of ways to achieve meaningful employment for autistic adults (Pellicano et al., 2014). In the UK, only a fifth of autistic adults are in some kind of employment, in comparison with four fifths of the general population and half of the disabled population (Office for National Statistics, 2021). Further to unemployment, autistic adults tend to be underemployed, being in part-time work, experiencing frequent job switching or being employed in roles that require minimal expertise (Baldwin et al., 2014; Frank et al., 2018; Scott et al., 2015). These difficulties gaining and maintaining employment are not in keeping with the skillset, education or desire to work of autistic adults (López & Keenan, 2014; Scott et al., 2015; Taylor & Seltzer, 2011).

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