auticon’s new research outlines a catalogue of barriers that are preventing autistic talent from entering the workforce.

auticon’s ‘Neurodiversity in Work Survey’, which reviewed the experiences of almost 1000 autistic workers, identifies the following key issues as being uniquely challenging for autistic talent:

  • Discriminatory recruitment practices
  • Lack of individual support at work
  • Poor autism awareness in organisations and employer prejudice

Most recruitment processes place emphasis on ‘standardisation’ which excludes most autistic people from the workforce and forces many who do enter employment into less-than-ideal jobs – as a result, currently only around 22 percent of autistic adults are employed.

The traditional recruitment process has its faults

Amongst the survey respondents, 31 percent cited the traditional recruitment process as the most challenging part of their career. Some of the reasons for these struggles include the fact that traditional recruitment process and typical workplace environment is not set up for the success of neurodivergent adults.

Also, key parts of both the recruitment process and success post-hire are based on unwritten rules, picking up on social cues, and generally “playing the corporate game”.

Due to a lack of education amongst the general workforce and reasonable accommodations being made, autistic individuals are also often seen as too direct, literal, or not engaged enough in the social workplace to get and keep the job.

What about the onboarding experience?

Over a third of autistic workers (35%) said settling into a new organisation has been the most challenging aspect of working life for them. Only 44 percent of people felt they could be their authentic selves at work and only a mere 7 percent stated that they had an autistic role model in the workplace.

Whilst a significant number of those who were surveyed had chosen to disclose their autism diagnosis to a trusted colleague (70%), only 30 percent felt comfortable disclosing their disability to HR. Results showed that the likelihood of disclosure was significantly impacted by age and seniority, with older and higher-ranking workers being far more likely to disclose than junior workers.

This was also reflected in the likelihood of workers to request reasonable adjustments to help support their needs, such as flexible working, wearing noise cancelling headphones in the workplace, having a designated work-station etc. Findings showed that the more junior the employee, the less likely they were to ask for reasonable adjustments – only 50 percent of junior workers compared to 78 percent of those in senior ranking roles.

Despite the fear and misunderstanding around requesting reasonable adjustments, when requested, people generally had a favourable response.  Only 2 percent of respondents said they did not get the adjustments they requested, while a majority 56 percent got everything they asked for and 42 percent got part of the adjustments requested. 

Andrea Girlanda, CEO of auticon UK says:

These findings reflect that reasonable adjustments are, usually, relatively straightforward and simple to make – a message auticon has been championing for over 11 years. However, more work still needs to be done in terms of making those wider cultural shifts necessary, to ensure that workplaces are more neuroinclusive. Specifically, focusing on the initial ways organisations look to attract, recruit, onboard and retain neurodivergent staff. Again, our successful model of recruiting and retaining talent based on identifying and playing to the strengths of the individual, shows this is possible – and great for businesses.”

auticon is a global social enterprise which hires and trains autistic IT consultants and places them into household name organisations. It provides unique support in the form of a job coach, to ensure autistic workers’ needs are met and autism awareness is increased amongst client teams.

He adds, “Our aim is to raise awareness, acceptance and understanding of autism, specifically in relation to the workplace, by demystifying the whole concept of neurodiversity. We also want to shine a light on those successfully entering inclusive workplaces, so as to pave the way for more autistic people to thrive in workplaces that are more understanding and accommodating.”







Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.