Marking the start of Autism Acceptance Month, new global data from auticon reveals causes and solutions for the employment gap among autistic professionals.

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Today we are pleased to release a new global report on autism in the workplace. The Neurodiversity at Work Survey Report, included in our latest Impact Report, surveyed 985 autistic professionals globally about their employment experiences, including finding quality career opportunities and disclosure to employers.

A crisis of unemployment among autistic job seekers.

It is estimated that less than 22% of autistic adults are in any form of meaningful employment (Office for National Statistics, UK, 2020). Data from organizations such as UK’s National Autistic Society reveal that most autistic people are motivated to work and have much to offer employers. Autistic people commonly have many cognitive strengths and in-demand skills. Yet, they face barriers to employment from non-inclusive recruitment and onboarding processes and a lack of autism awareness and support.

  • 31% of those surveyed indicated the recruitment process was the most challenging aspect of their career. In a 2022 survey of autistic Canadian job seekers, 40% found the interview process a great challenge.
  • Once in work, 35% of the global group said settling into a new organization was the most challenging phase of their working life for them.
  • Only 44% globally felt they could be their authentic selves at work. In Canada, over 45% feel they must mask their autistic traits, and almost half did not feel comfortable disclosing they are autistic.
  • Only 7% stated they had an autistic role model in the workplace.

Disclosing autism at work.

The decision to disclose one is autistic can be complicated. From social stigma to fear or experiences of being judged, misunderstood, bullied, or fired for needing accommodations, various reasons can lead an autistic person to mask their autistic traits instead of disclosing to an employer. Although 70% of employed autistic people have shared that they are autistic with someone at work, such as a trusted colleague (68%) or a manager they work closely with (62%), only 30% have disclosed it to HR. In the Canadian study, 56% felt they were treated differently once people learned they were autistic, and 42% reported being the target of discrimination at work. “I unknowingly hid my symptoms well,” said one respondent.

Asking for support at work.

To a large extent, seniority in an organization determines whether someone requests a reasonable accommodation. 80% of business owners and 78% of senior management asked for adjustments, but only 50% of those in junior roles requested reasonable adjustments. Only 2% of respondents said they did not get the adjustments they requested, while a majority 56% got everything they requested, and 42% received part of the requested adjustments.

“Autism is still widely misunderstood, resulting in stereotyping of autistic people. This often perpetuates fears about what it means to employ neurodivergent people. With the Neurodiversity at Work Survey report, we want to demystify neurodiversity and shine a light on employment and workplace barriers that so many autistic professionals face. Our aim ultimately is to enable the wider cultural shifts necessary for organizations and our societies to benefit from alternative thinkers,” adds auticon’s Chief People & Social Innovation Officer, Meeta Thareja. “Our report editor, Louise Stone – an autistic role model herself – has eloquently taken the report beyond statistics to bring alive the life and work experiences of neurodivergent professionals. We hope the insights from Neurodiversity at Work inspire change and action to make workplaces more neuroinclusive.”

“This report, as well as our 2022 report Embracing Neurodiversity at Work have shown that although some progress is being made in creating equitable and inclusive workplaces, there is still much work to be done,” commented Garth Johnson, CEO, auticon Canada. “When employers and society at large can recognize that diversity of thought and experience is a business benefit and, ultimately, a competitive advantage, neuroinclusion can truly be realized.”

Download the full report here.

About the data collection process.

This online survey of 985 employed autistic adults in the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, and Switzerland was commissioned by auticon and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected between the 7th to 23rd of February 2023. All participants are double opted in to take part in research and are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team. OnePoll are company partners of the MRS and has corporate membership to ESOMAR.

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