Beyond this, advocates for disabled workers have raised concerns that businesses are not doing enough to protect workers from minority backgrounds who could find themselves more likely to be at risk of unemployment due to the upcoming economic downturn.
Carol Adams, Professor of Accounting at Durham University explains some of the issues neurodiverse candidates could have entered the workplace.
Sputnik: Why are people on the autistic spectrum so underrepresented in the workforce?
Carol Adams: Well, it is shocking, isn't it with only 16% in full time employment despite 77% wanting to work. I think it's due to a lack of awareness of the positive traits of people with autism. Evidence Based decision makers persistent at solving problems, looking at problems from a different perspective, integrity, strong work ethic and then there's also indirect discrimination through a lack of understanding of how autistic people communicate.
So for example, misunderstanding, lack of eye contact or not doing small talk as 'disinterest', which is really not the case. I think organisations need to need to really think about what's more important for a cleaner, lab technician, surgeon or a teacher? Is it knowledge, ability or work ethic? Or is it eye contact or small talk? And employers are not are not accountable, which is another issue. They're reporting figures on equal opportunities and equality for other issues, but not for the employment of autistic people.
Sputnik: Now what kind of hiring practices could lead to more neuro diverse candidates being employed here in the UK?
Carol Adams: Well, I think interviews put autistic people at a disadvantage, there might be some anxiety there. I've read books about interviews and they say that people make up their mind in the first 20 seconds of somebody walking into the interview room. That's about how they present themselves socially. I had a student once when I was a professor at the University of Glasgow, who wore a hijab and she was asked by employers, whether she would wear it when she went to visit clients. So there is this bias in the interview process of people not looking at the skills that a person has.
Sputnik: Now we're entering a period of economic uncertainty, do you think that could lead to a situation where employers are less likely to take the perceived 'risk' of employing someone from a neuro diverse background?
Carol Adams: I think it's a bigger problem than that, really, I think, employers there is a lack of awareness of what autistic people have to offer. I think this needs monitoring by the government. Employers ought to be accountable as they are with other aspects of equality. And lumping autistic people with other types of disability would mask the much lower employment rates for autistic people.