In the workplace, you may find that you need additional support or adjustments to avoid putting yourself at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled or non-autistic people. This article focuses on how to ask for support and reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process and when you start a new job.
A ‘reasonable adjustment’ is a change to remove barriers to allow the individual to perform to the best of their ability when applying for a job or within the workplace. A reasonable adjustment could be helping a job applicant through the recruitment process, a change within the physical workplace or adjustments to policies and procedures.
By law under The Equality Act 2010 (UK), an employer or a university must consider making a reasonable adjustment when they know a job applicant or employee has a disability, or when that individual explicitly asks for adjustments. The employer then needs to make the changes – if they are reasonable.
Even if you cannot see any reference to reasonable adjustment in the recruitment paperwork and policies or online policies, it is your legal right. What is classed as reasonable can depend on whether:
- it is affordable by the employer,
- it is practical to make the change,
- it will remove the disadvantage for the individual requesting, and
- it would harm the health and safety of others.
You can request reasonable adjustments at the interview stage if you think your autism may impact your ability to perform in the interview. Every adjustment that is requested is dependent upon your individual condition and how this could affect you in an interview or within the workplace.
Remember, your employer or your university can only offer reasonable adjustments if they know you are disabled or have a health condition. Good employers will have effective procedures in place. You can help your employer by sharing with them your specific needs and preferences.
Reasonable Adjustments During Your Job Search
One of the most requested adjustments at the interview stage is getting access to the interview questions beforehand. This can be anything between 1 day or 1 hour before to allow the individual a fairer chance at succeeding at the interview stage. However, there are several other adjustments that can help you perform at your best:
- Requesting details such as number of people on the interview panel and pictures of the panel
- Asking for details of the location of the interview and the setup of the room
- Extra time to answer questions within the interview
- Asking for a one to one interview rather than a panel interview
- Requesting an informal meeting before the interview
- Requesting a different format altogether, e.g. two day of work trial instead of a formal interview
Reasonable Adjustments in the Workplace
Many people with a disability or health condition require reasonable adjustments in work to help them overcome barriers. Adjustments allow the individual to complete their role to a high standard and can eradicate mistakes, enhance productivity and make learning easier. Some adjustments may require equipment to be purchased.
In the UK, on many occasions funding can be provided by Access to Work, a government funding scheme that provides an assessment on what individuals may find beneficial dependent on their circumstances. You will need to apply for Access to work your employer cannot do this for you.
Examples of adjustments in the workplace are:
- Flexible working times, to allow the individual to travel at a suitable time
- Allowing a quiet space to work instead of a busy open plan office
- Allocating a supportive member of staff to coach and offer mentoring
- Providing clarity on work priorities and setting timescales
- Presenting information visually rather than vocal instructions
- Supplying additional equipment such as dual computer screens or noise blocking headphones
- Removing something from the workplace, for example bright lights above the employees workstation.
How may this affect me?
Having a reasonable adjustment in place gives you a stronger chance of success to perform at your best. It can increase your wellbeing and reduce anxieties, and it can also enable you to be more efficient in the workplace. This may be because the environment is more conducive, you’re calm, or because you have the right equipment you need to do your job.
But it is not just about you – making colleagues aware of what helps you work to your best abilities can help them in turn to understand how they can support you in the workplace or at university.
What can I do next?
Use our profile builder to select the reasonable adjustments that are best for you.
We have developed a profile builder which suggests a range of typical adjustments, from which you can select the ones personal to you. You can then request these adjustments with the knowledge that they are well-established and accepted in many workplaces.
When requesting support or reasonable adjustments, these tips may help:
- Consider what areas you need support for: Take time to sit and think about what areas you need support in. Don’t just pick whart you feel “would be nice”. Identifying your areas of need can make it easier to find the right support or reasonable adjustments for you.
- Consider what sensory issues you are experiencing – these may affect you greatly but fortunately they are also the ones which are often the easiest to rectify. Think about light, sound, colours, space, touch, scent, feeling overwhelmed.
- Do you already know what works for you? From previous experiences at home, school, university or work you might have some idea of what adjustments work for you. Is there any equipment that helps you, e.g. headphones, stress or fidget devices, apps, how to set up the environment you are in?
- Find out who the right person is to arrange reasonable adjustments. This is likely to be your manager, a disability representative or someone in the HR team.
- Be realistic in your support needs: Remember, the employer can only accommodate your support needs if they are considered reasonable. Have a look at the common reasonable adjustments in the profile builder tools to help you think about what support you may benefit from.
- Disclose your condition: This can usually be done on the job application form, through the recruitment process or during your job induction.
- Find organisations that have publicly declared to support disabled or autistic employees. These are organisations with clearly defines policies or charters, such as Disability Confident in the UK, the Autism-Friendly Award in Ireland, or the Aspie-Friendly Charter in France. A list of UK employers can be found at http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-confident-employers-that-have-signed-up. For companies and universities that have signed up to the Aspie-Friendly Charter, see https://aspie-friendly.fr/
- Profile Builder: Select reasonable adjustments for an upcoming interview
- Profile Builder: Select reasonable adjustments for the workplace