Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) have become watchwords for forward-thinking organisations keen to secure talent from all avenues. Within the broader DE&I conversation, awareness of the value that neurodiverse employees can bring to workplaces is growing, with more and more HR departments working to create inclusive environments. 

Neurodiverse professionals have the potential to prevent businesses from falling into stale and static routines by unlocking new ways of thinking about how we work. In our recent webinar, 'Understanding Neurodiversity & Support Strategies in the Workplace', Bolu Faseun, PageGroup’s Senior Manager for DE&I, hosted Suzanne Eusman, Head of Specialist Employment Services at Autism Plus.

Suzanne has worked with adults with autism spectrum conditions, learning difficulties, and mental health concerns for more than 20 years. She helps neurodiverse individuals to find work and to stay in work for longer, while liaising with employers to remove barriers for neurodiverse employees.

Here, we’ll be sharing some of the key actionable insights from this session. If you’re a HR professional looking to update your organisation’s approach, or a leader who is interested in unlocking this high potential talent pool, read on for expert guidance to inform your strategy. 

What is autism?

While not all neurodiverse people are individuals with autism, they do make up a significant portion of that population. So, let's begin by defining what we mean when we talk about individuals with autism. 

Suzanne explained that autism may not be immediately obvious to onlookers, and can vary along the spectrum from very mild cases through to profound autism. It can have a number of common effects on the individual, including:

  • Difficulty communicating effectively
  • Misunderstanding social rules
  • Problems adapting to changes in routine
  • Lack of interaction with surrounding environment

Some people living with autism do so with the help of family, friends, or professional carers; however, many do not need any substantial or specific support in order to live a fully functional life.

Access our free Employee Value Proposition eBook

Does autism affect employment?

Unfortunately, people with autism are much more likely to be out of work. Most people with one or more disabilities (54%) are employed, but among people with autism this figure falls to just 22%.

Whether due to unemployment, social isolation or other impacts, nearly four in five (79%) adults living with autism experience mental health challenges.

Watch the full on-demand webinar:

How are autistic employees different?

Though every individual with autism is unique and autism presents differently from person to person, there are some broad considerations to bear in mind. For instance, autistic employees may need support to help them contribute in team meetings and other 'social' settings, when other personnel are also present.

An autistic individual may also:

  • Appear to respond less often due to uncertainty about when to speak.
  • Take longer to respond, but typically then provide a thorough answer.
  • Initially appear shy, but tend to be expressive and committed once comfortable.

Neurodiverse individuals may also interpret questions in an unexpected way, which can provide a useful learning opportunity for management on how to communicate more clearly without ambiguity.

How can employers support autistic employees?

Many individuals with disclosed or profound autism may have experienced discrimination and other negative experiences in the past, including in the workplace. Against this backdrop, a comprehensive DE&I policy and open dialogue with all personnel can help to create a climate of genuine inclusivity.

In some instances, autistic individuals may interpret social interactions differently to a neurotypical person. For that reason, it’s important to promote a culture in which staff approach one another with respect for different perspectives.

Finally, autistic employees may need more time to prepare for changes to routine, including schedule changes such as meetings and training sessions. They may also benefit from a quiet working environment, free from the kinds of distractions that can lead to sensory overload.
Download our 2023 HR Salary Guide

Highlights from our Q&A 

Our webinar ended with an opportunity for live viewers to ask questions directly to the panel. Here are some of the highlights:

Is there a risk that 'reasonable adjustments' for staff with autism might seem unfair to personnel without autism?


It can be a challenge, but it's about wider diversity understanding across the organisation. This means having that conversation around what neurodiversity is, what it looks like. That will increase the empathy and the understanding of your wider organisation.


At PageGroup, we ask the individual what they are comfortable with us sharing with their colleagues and whether they want their colleagues to know that they are neurodiverse. It isn’t awkward from there on, it becomes natural practice.

How do you handle an employee or candidate who is clearly neurodiverse, but is not disclosing?


With an employee, it's about wider awareness. We had an autistic staff member who was happy to tell the rest of her team, but wanted to do it herself. So, we started a conversation about autism in an autism awareness training session, where she could say, 'I do that with my diagnosis as well'. With candidates, you should not directly ask, 'Are you autistic?' but start a general conversation about difficulties they might have, or reference webinars and wider awareness strategies.

What's next?

At Michael Page Human Resources, we work closely with employers to source HR professionals with deep knowledge of DE&I priorities, as well as compensation and benefits, talent strategy, and other key challenges. 

If you’re looking to hire HR talent, be sure to download our free 2023 Guide to Salaries and Hiring Strategy in Human Resources and get in touch with the team to discuss ways to optimise your recruitment process:

Get in touch