What is a Workplace Needs Assessment?

A workplace needs assessment is carried out where an individual has a disability. Whilst many people with ASC may not feel that they are disabled, Autism is included under legal disability protections along with other neurodiversities such as dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, etc.

There is substantial case law to support this inclusion. 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”.

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.

What happens during a Workplace Needs Assessment?

A workplace needs assessment MUST be carried out by someone with knowledge of autism within an adult and employment context. This is vital to avoid inappropriate recommendations being made.

The Workplace Needs Assessor (WPNA) will want to gather some additional background information. This is likely to include case history from the individual and their line manager (these will be separate and treated in strictest confidence), any diagnostic assessment reports regardless of when they were done (again these will be treated in strictest confidence), a job description and any other information that is felt to be relevant.

The WPNA will meet with the individual and their manager separately to discuss, in detail, the role and the strengths and the challenges being experienced by the individual.

The WPNA will, if possible, observe the work environment and may ask to see examples of the types of work being undertaken. If it is not possible to do a site visit they may ask to see photos or that a brief video tour is provided.

Following this exploration phase, the WPNA will compile a detailed report that contains comprehensive analysis of the issues and recognises areas of strength that can be further developed. They will then make recommendations for reasonable adjustments that takes into account what is “reasonable” in these specific circumstances.

Recommendations for reasonable adjustments might include, for example,

  • Work based coaching to mitigate particular challenges and to develop specific skills needed in the role, e.g. organisation skills, communication skills
  • Use of assistive or other technology or equipment along with training to use it
  • Access to a suitable work area, e.g. a quiet space for concentrated work
  • Training for line managers or colleagues (this can be paid for by Access to Work)
  • Adjustments to working hours such as shorter but more frequent rest breaks to take account of, for example, fatigue
  • Adjustments to working arrangements such as avoiding “hot desking” or busy times on public transport on in facilities such as staff canteens
  • Use of a support worker to support with areas that are a particular challenge (this can be paid for by Access to Work)

It must be remembered that any recommendations MUST be reasonable so in some circumstances it may not be possible to adjust certain aspects of the role or environment. This is taken into account during the Workplace Needs Assessment. A job cannot be reasonably adjusted to the point where it is no longer the same as the role that an individual is employed to do, nor can they be excessively expensive, cause excessive disruption to other employees or the organisation or cause a Health and Safety risk.

The report should contain detail of the costs of any such reasonable adjustments, if applicable, and details of at least 2, if not 3, suppliers, if applicable.

The report will be sent to the individual and their manager (and to HR if applicable), permission to do this is sought in advance. An opportunity to discuss the findings and recommendations should also be offered to all parties.

The final report can then be used in support of an application for Access to Work funding if required although sometimes employers choose to cover the cost themselves where such costs are minimal.

The individual employee is responsible for submitting an application to Access to Work but line managers or HR teams can often support with this. https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work

It is the organisation’s responsibility to ensure that any reasonable adjustments are implemented in a timely manner and without undue delay. Delays in implementing reasonable adjustments, are on occasion, one of the reasons why disability discrimination claims at Employment Tribunals are successful.

What happens after the Reasonable Adjustments are implemented?

With any package of reasonable adjustments, it is likely that there will be a period of adjustment, re-adjustment and bedding in. Therefore, it is important that line managers have regular reviews and check ins to see how things are going. It is an incorrect assumption to expect that things will change overnight. It is more likely that it will take an individual some time to fully integrate the support that has been provided and this will particularly the case if the recommendations involve work-based coaching, mentoring or training to use equipment or software.

It may even be that some things don’t work effectively or that as an individual becomes more experienced in the role that they develop their own, more effective strategies.

Reasonable Adjustments can be flexible and adapt as the landscape changes. However, it would be expected that after 6 months there will have been a positive impact.

Here at I AM we are able to offer Workplace Needs Assessments and work-based coaching. We can also support employers with training and consultancy.

For more information about what we do contact admin@i-am-autism.org.uk or give us a call on 0161 866 8483

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