Many people with ASC are in work and many more want to work, but research tells us that only 32% are in paid employment whilst 77% want to work. Yet support for ASC individuals in employment does exist but many people just don’t know about it.
The Government has a scheme called Access to Work. The Access to Work scheme will fund a wide variety of reasonable adjustments and support. This includes, but is not limited to, assistive technology, adaptations, work-based coaching (provided it relates directly to the role, for example coaching to develop strategies for social and communication challenges or organisational skills in a work situation), a support worker, and a variety of other reasonable adjustments that might be detailed in the workplace needs assessment report.
A workplace needs assessment is carried out where an individual has a disability. A disability is defined by the Equality Act 2010 as “a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”. Autism, along with other neurodiversities like dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, etc., is included under its protections and there is substantial case law to support this inclusion. Although many people with ASC wouldn’t see themselves as disabled its always good to know that there are legal protections in place if they are needed.
The purpose of a workplace needs assessment is not to diagnose the condition but to identify reasonable adjustments, aids or adaptations that may be necessary to enable the individual to carry out the duties of their role in the setting in which they are employed.
The individual does not need to provide proof of their condition as a Workplace Needs Assessment is carried out on the basis of need, not label. An employer may ask for proof of the disability, but if the individual cannot provide it, and the employer requires it, then it would be the responsibility of the employer to pay for any diagnostic assessment to be carried out since they are the ones requiring the evidence to be produced. Clearly therefore taking a supportive approach and focussing on “needs” rather than “label” has definite cost saving benefits for employers.
Even where an individual does have a report from a diagnostic assessment it is still expected that they will also have a workplace needs assessment to identify the specific reasonable adjustments. This is because the actual work environment and role will not have been examined in detail during a diagnostic assessment and therefore the recommendations in a diagnostic report can only be generic. The actual role and environment can in fact be more “disabling” than the diagnostic report may indicate.
The recommendations in the workplace needs assessment report will be specific to the individual carrying out the duties of their specific role in that specific work environment. If their role changes or they change jobs then they can have another Workplace Needs Assessment and apply for Access for Work funding for the new role or job.
In some circumstances the employer may have to share the costs of any reasonable adjustments.
- If the individual has not been employed in this role for more than 6 weeks then the employer will not have to contribute
- If the individual has been employed (in this role) for more than 6 weeks then the employer may have to contribute to the costs depending on the total number of employees employed by the organisation
- If the individual is new to the role (less than 6 weeks) but not the organisation then the employer will not have to contribute, i.e. it is a new job but with the same employer.
- If the individual has been employed with an employer (in the same role) beyond the 6 weeks the amount the employer has to pay will vary depending on the number of employees: 0-49 = 0 contribution, 50 -249 = £500, Over 250 = £1,000 (correct as of 2020)
- The amount is capped per year (up to 2021 the cap is £60,700 per year)
The recommendations contained in the report must though be “reasonable”. The “reasonableness” of the recommendations is assessed on the basis of a variety of factors such as,
- The size of the organisation (a large organisation would be expected to be able to offer greater flexibility of support than a smaller one)
- The cost, for example giving someone 50% extra time to carry out the role is unlikely to be reasonable as it would mean that the company was paying a full salary for 50% of the value. There may, however, be recommendations for additional time allowances on specific tasks or a lowering of KPIs in some instances but these have to be carefully considered and be reasonable.
- The impact on the business
- A reasonable adjustment cannot adjust a role so much that it is no longer the role for which the individual is employed, i.e. it would not be reasonable to remove a defining feature of the role.
- Other law such as Health & Safety take precedence over reasonable adjustments.
The funding is available to most people in paid employment and does include apprentices, directors, self-employed and interns.
The individual must apply for the funding themselves usually online through the website https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work
Here at I AM we can provide Workplace Needs Assessments and support individuals in employment with work-based coaching and employers with training and consultancy.
For more information about what we do contact firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0161 866 8483