Telling people at work about your autism is also known as ‘declaring a disability’ or ‘disclosing’. Here is more information about why this is important.
What is meant by ‘disclosure’?
You might not consider autism a disability but employers might recognise you have additional needs and preferences. Telling your employer about your autism prompts them to offer additional support and to explore support options available to you. You do not have to tell everyone you work with you are autistic if you do not want to. You also do not have to accept the support if you think it is unnecessary.
Why is disclosure important?
You might choose not to tell anybody at work you are autistic as this is a very personal decision. However, it can make it difficult to access the support you might need both officially and informally, through trusted work colleagues or peers. At school or university, you might not have needed or received any support outside of your family or friends. The workplace can be very different and there is a wide range of support available.
Employers will need to know you are autistic to make any ‘reasonable adjustments’. For example, if you need more time to meet deadlines at work, flexible starting and finishing times or a desk with your back to the wall, you will need to tell your employer. This toolkit includes a profile builder that lets you select the reasonable adjustments you feel would help you perform your job better. You can then propose these adjustments to your empoyer.
Who should I tell and who would find out?
There are several opportunities to tell your employer you are autistic. This ranges from the application form, the interview, your first day at work or once you have settled into the job. If you decide to tell your employer you are autistic, it is entirely your decision about when and who to speak to. Some options include:
- Stating you are autistic on the application form, under the voluntary diversity questions
- After you have been offered an interview, so the employer can make adjustments in advance
- Whilst you are explaining your strengths during the interview
- Prior to your first day at work, to ensure any adjustments are implemented from the start
- After your first few days at work, so that you have a better idea of the adjustments you need
- Emailing HR to let them know
- Asking for a confidential meeting with your line manager or a trusted colleague and speaking to them
You may decide to be completely open about your autism to everyone, or you may only want one or two people to know at work. Often, if you have thought through your options carefully, then this prevents your behaviour being misinterpreted in the workplace because your work colleagues understand your needs from the start. It can be helpful to talk these options through with family members or close friends before you seek employment.
How may this affect me?
Disclosing that you are autistic is a very personal decision. It can depend on how comfortable you feel (or how familiar you are with the workplace) or how comfortable you are discussing your autism with others. You may be worried about how others will react.
Some of the benefits of disclosing include:
- Not having to disguise the fact that you are autistic.
- Knowing your employers are then legally obliged to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace.
- Feeling accepted by your work colleagues and worrying less about workplace interactions.
- Providing an accurate description of yourself.
However, some disclosure might risks include:
- Thinking that some work colleagues might not understand you.
- Worrying that potential employers would hold prejudiced beliefs or be confused about autism.
You might want to speak to a close friend or family member so you can talk through how disclosure may affect you. You could draw up a list of benefits and drawbacks together. You could also suggest your employer provide autism awareness training to staff members and colleagues.
What can I do next?
Be clear about your needs and preferences before you tell your employer about your autism.
If you decide to tell your employer you’re autistic, they will often ask what support you need and what they can do to help. It is useful to have examples ready to provide them with this information. You can use the following IMAGE profile builder tools to collate this information:
1) Select reasonable adjustments for the workplace
2) My ideal job
Additional information and links
You can also remind your employer about Access to Work. This is the UK governmental organisation which supports adults with disabilities in the workplace. Here are their contact details:
Access to Work: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work
Telephone: 0800 121 7479
Textphone: 0800 121 7579
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
- How to ask for support and reasonable adjustments
- Profile Builder: Select reasonable adjustments for the workplace
- Template Builder: Share work preferences with new colleagues