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How to support employees who are living with disabilities or identify as neurodiverse

By May 23, 2022No Comments

In some circles, there is still stigma surrounding employing people with disabilities or those who identify as neurodiverse. Millennials, in particular, are beginning to tackle these taboos by opening up about topics like autism, mental health, and all kinds of disabilities. From how they identify, to calling out ableism, and raising awareness of health autonomy.

What is neurodiversity?

ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette’s syndrome are all examples of neurodiverse conditions. They’re diagnostic labels used to explain the diverse ways of thinking, learning, processing, and behaving.

What are the stats for people with disabilities and employment in the UK?

32% of autistic adults in the UK are in some kind of paid work (National Autistic Society, 2016).

Blind applications lead to five times as many women being selected (Diversity for Social Impact, 2021).

80% of new joiners stated that a prospective employer’s diversity and inclusivity policy was an important factor in whether or not they chose to join a company (PwC, 2015).

How to become a disability confident business

If you’ve never knowingly hired a person with disabilities before, and you’re unsure where to begin in making sure you are accessible and inclusive, here’s a whistle-stop tour on a few options that can help.

#1 Access to Work

This is a government-funded grant scheme that helps empower people with disabilities, physical, and mental health conditions access what they need to start a job and stay employed.

#2 Texthelp

Organisations such as Texthelp build software that helps support communication needs in the workplace. They work with organisations such as the NHS, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the police, as well as many non-profits and private sector companies.

They also help train leaders to become disability confident organisations through a range of tools.

What your employees want

By law, nobody has to tell their employer they’re disabled. But someone should talk with their manager or potential employer if:

  • they need support
  • there’s a health and safety risk to them or other people
  • they feel that telling them now may prevent problems later

It’s up to the person to decide when they want to tell their employer. Some people might choose to do this when something changes, for example their condition starts affecting them much more than it used to.

The best way to find out what your employees want is to ask them. That’s why we have a built-in survey tool on our platform. You can send feedback surveys with the option to fill out anonymously or with identifiers to allow follow-ups.

In general, it is not only your disabled or neurodiverse employees who will have something to say about your benefits offerings, so don’t single them out.

What to consider:

#1 Private healthcare

Without asking invasive, inappropriate questions, it is generally assumed that people with disabilities, mental health conditions or who are neurodiverse, may need additional healthcare. It is worth investigating if your existing healthcare plans cover existing conditions and other limitations.

#2 Additional mental health provisions

Often, standard mental health assistance such as counselling and CBT are only offered for 6 – 8 sessions. They tend to be tailored for generalised anxiety or low mood, rather than a specific diagnosis. Therefore, they may not be suitable for people living with a long-term condition. For that reason, EAP might not be right either. We recommend checking what your private health insurance plans cover. Mental health charity, Mind, has this helpful article all about it if you need a starting point.

#3 Accessible gyms

If you include gym memberships in your benefits, you may want to investigate accessibility. That’s more than simply lifts, ramps or ground floor premises. It is also the types of classes, rules around guide dogs, access to swimming pools, other leisure facilities, and much more.

#4 Mental health days

What is your policy on mental health days? In general, we talk a lot about supporting our employees’ health holistically, and offering health and wellness benefits. Westfield Health says:

Mental health days are all about employees taking a day off from work as sickness absence in order to do something good for their mental health and wellbeing, to prevent their mental health from deteriorating which may affect their ability to work.

We are by no means suggesting that people with disabilities or autistic people are more likely to experience poor mental health. However, it is worth keeping these statistic in mind:

Autism is not a mental health condition. However, according to autism research charity Autistica, seven out of ten autistic people have a mental health condition such as anxietydepressionADHD or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Adults with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost 5 times as often as adults without disabilities.

Summary

As we aim to build more inclusive and diverse workplaces. It is important that we make sure we are geared up to ensure coming to work is a positive experience for everyone, as standard. No one should feel their basic needs are not met.

Furthermore, our employee benefits packages must be equally as inclusive. It’s not good enough to offer healthcare plans that don’t support a range of physical and mental health conditions. And if we are not taking proper care of our employees with disabilities and those who are neurodiverse, it’s time to get back to basics and try harder.

At FlexGenius, we are keen to help you build a truly flexible employee benefits programme. We don’t just offer a personalised platform for your employees, but dashboards that make life in HR and benefit management easier. Our built-in survey and communications tools help you build a strategy to effectively promote and improve your offering and boost employee engagement.