Everything you Need to Know About Autism Discrimination in the Workplace

In this article, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about autism discrimination in the workplace and, what to do about it. 


Photo by Peter Burdon on Unsplash


In 2022, we’d like to think that discrimination, in all of its forms, would be a thing of the past but sadly, this is still not the case. 


Every year, thousands of people hire the services of a solicitor in order to attempt to gain a settlement agreement for workplace discrimination and, a great number of these people are those who suffer from autism or some form of disability. 


In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about autism discrimination in the workplace and the course of action available. 

What is Autism?


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a disorder caused by differences in the brain and often presents as a difficulty in coping with social and communication-based interactions. Autism varies in severity and, while many sufferers are diagnosed at a very young age, some adults with mild ASD also receive a diagnosis. 

People with autism will often rely on strict routines to allow them to navigate day to day life and can become agitated and distressed when that routine is disrupted. 


Although some people suffer extreme autism, others have very mild symptoms, this is often described as ‘being on the spectrum’ and means they can lead relatively normal lives including independent working and living. 

Autism Discrimination in the Workplace



There are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK and many autistic adults are gainfully employed. While autistic people are often able to perform duties in the workplace to a high level, they will often require employers to make some allowances / adjustments to allow them to comfortably spend time in the workplace. Such allowances can include: 


·       Breaks - Allowing the employee to take short, unscheduled breaks should they find themselves overwhelmed or unable to focus.

·       Tasking - Limiting the number of tasks that the employee is given all at once.

·       Quiet - Providing a quiet place for the employee to work so that he or she is not overwhelmed by ambient noise. Alternatively, an employer may permit the employee to wear noise-cancelling headphones.

·       Clear instructions - Ensuring that instructions are given to the employee in a clear and straightforward manner as autistic people can, often, have a tendency to take things very literally. 


While these are all reasonable requests, figures show that many autistic people suffer from discrimination in the workplace due to their condition, and this discrimination can take a few forms, including: 


·       Colleagues - In some instances, an employer will fail to properly train employees on interaction with an autistic employee. This can lead to employees becoming frustrated with the autistic employee when they don’t respond in the expected way. 

·       Progression - Often, an employer will choose not to promote an autistic employee despite the fact that their performance has been exemplary. In some cases, this could be because a new role may involves more meetings with people outside of the company and the employer may have concerns that the autistic employee may not being able to perform as needed.

·       Failure to adapt - Commonly, an employer will agree to make adjustments for an autistic employee and then fail to follow through. This can mean that the employee is not adequately able to perform their duties and, therefore, may be subject to disciplinary action. 

Do Workplaces Have a Legal Requirement?



Workplace discrimination is illegal in the UK, meaning that equal opportunities must be offered to everybody regardless of gender, race, colour and physical or mental disability. 


Employers must, therefore, take reasonable steps to ensure that somebody with a condition or disability such as autism must be able to work comfortably in the workplace. Employers who fail to do this can be subject to legal action in the form of a workplace discrimination case and may have to pay the victim a significant amount of money in compensation. 


Those who feel that they have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace should first speak to their direct superior and, if necessary, file a formal complaint with Human Resources. 


If this fails to resolve the problem, they may want to seek the advice of a legal professional who will be able to tell them if they have a case against their employer for workplace discrimination. 

Stamping out Discrimination…


Thankfully, many UK employers are only too happy to do everything that they can to make their workplace as inclusive as possible and, in fact, delight in the diversity and innovation of ideas that this offers. 


Unfortunately, there are still companies which fail to properly address the needs of those with disabilities and conditions such as autism, leading to significant distress for the victim - and sometimes legal action for the employer. 


In 2022, discrimination has no place in our schools, places of worship and workplaces and, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that they are not only recruiting from diverse segments of the community but, are also doing everything that they reasonably can to ensure that these people are given adequate allowances so that they can effectively perform their duties - something which benefits both the employer and the employee.


Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a lawyer/solicitor if you’re seeking advice on workplace discrimination. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.