Equipsme HR Guide – neurodiversity

Equipsme HR Guide neurodiversity

Neurodiversity refers to the way some people’s brains work differently to others, and is a blanket term for a range of different thinking, learning and processing styles, including autism, dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia.

There’s increasing recognition that neurodivergence is something that impacts people at work, and presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses. Being a neurodivergent-friendly workplace can help improve engagement, increase productivity, and harness diverse talent for your business.

Neurodiversity in numbers

There are definitely neurodivergent people already in your organisation:

Neurodivergence does not fit neatly into a box – conditions can overlap and everyone is different, and will have different talents and different needs:

  • 80% of autistic people also have ADHD (5)
  • 40% of people with ADHD also have dyslexia (6)

Being different is not always an advantage in the workplace, and people whose brains are wired differently can face discrimination. They also have to expend more energy fitting in with those around them, or ‘masking’, which can contribute to mental ill health:

  • 52% of people with dyslexia have faced discrimination (7)
  • Only 32% of autistic adults are in paid work (8)
  • 70% of neurodivergent employees experience mental health issues (9)

When neurodivergent talents are fostered in the workplace, the results are more diverse and more effective teams.

  • 30% - how much more productive teams are when they DO include neurodiverse members (10)
  • 84%of dyslexic people are above average in reasoning, understanding patterns, evaluating possibilities and making decisions (11)

Harnessing those strengths and supporting neurodiverse employees is now becoming a priority for many businesses.

  • 41% of organisations intend to strengthen neurodiversity support in the coming months (12)
  • 52% believe wellbeing support for neurodiversity helps improve employee engagement (13)
  • 75% already offer or plan to focus on HR policies, such as flexibility in job design to meet neurodivergent needs (14)

What does the law say about neurodiversity?

The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from discrimination at work, if they have a protected characteristic, including some kinds of neurodiversity.

Discrimination can be direct, indirect, or perceived, and organisations are required to make reasonable adjustments to support neurodiverse job applicants and employees. This means ensuring they can overcome any substantial disadvantages they may have doing their jobs and progressing in work. 

What can businesses do to support neurodivergent people?

1. Take a person-centred approach

All kinds of neurodiversity exist on a spectrum, and the experience of one person can be very different to another. It’s really important to listen to individuals about what they want and need to be able to do the job you want and need them to do.

2. Invest in training and awareness

The key to ensuring your business is neurodivergent-friendly is awareness training, particularly for line managers. There are courses and coaching available to help managers understand neurodivergence, and provide practical strategies that can be applied in real life situations.

It’s also important to get c-suite support, and incredibly powerful to be able to share stories and experiences from the senior management team. A senior champion could also set up a working group of neurodiverse colleagues to advise the organisation on its neurodiversity policies.

3. Update your Equality and Diversity policies

If your Equality and Diversity policies don’t specifically include neurodiversity, it’s time for an update. That means looking closely at how all of your workplace policies impact everyone, and if you’re doing enough to give everyone an even playing field.

4. Develop and standardise neurodiversity accommodations

Small changes can make a really big difference to neurodiverse people in the workplace.

Those might include simply allowing neurodiverse colleagues to wear headphones or move locations if background noise is a sensory issue for them. It could look like investing in voice recording technology for a dyslexic colleague, or organisational tools or apps for those who struggle with executive functioning. It might also mean giving people extra time for proof-reading, or extra support for planning tasks, changing the format of meetings or the phrasing of instructions, or letting people sit, stand or use fidget toys to help them focus.

In recruitment, neurodiverse people might need to see interview questions in advance, might require extra time for written tasks, and might need to be able to move around during the process.

5. Provide mental health support systems

There is a clear link between neurodiversity and mental health. Trying to fit into a world that isn’t set up for you is hard work, and can cause significant stress. But that stress may not show itself in the same way as it does for neurotypical people.

Part of supporting neurodiversity in your workplace has to be supporting mental health. Make sure your health and wellbeing benefits are well-known and well-advertised, and encourage line managers to signpost to your Employee Assistance Programme, or mental-health first aiders.

With Equipsme, 24/7 GP access can provide a lifeline for anyone struggling with their physical or mental health. And if you have included our Stress Support EAP service in your Equipsme plan, it provides not only a helpline, but access to a number of face-to-face counselling sessions for employees if they’re required.


(4) (5) (6) (7) (8) : Axa Health
(2) : adhd.co.uk
(3) : autism.org.uk
(9) : peoplemanagement.co.uk
(10) (11) : venturewales.org
(12) (13) (14) : reba.global

Other resources:


Created: April 2024
Word count: 884