Search Comment Central
Shutterstock 372379096

Embracing neurodiverse employment can solve Britain’s labour market challenges

Dan Harris
May 15, 2024

The labour market is at a crossroads, grappling with significant challenges like skill shortages, a declining workforce, and high employee turnover. One overlooked solution could be right in front of us: embracing neurodiverse employment. 

I recently addressed the European Union in Brussels, emphasising the pressing need for greater support of neurodiverse individuals and the pivotal role cross-border collaboration can play in this endeavour. As part of this visit, I delivered a letter by Dr Lisa Cameron MP addressed to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to promote the creation of a new working group between Parliament and the European Commission. 

Through this, Britain would foster joint initiatives with our European partners to further support neurodiverse individuals across the continent. President Ursula von der Leyen and European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli gladly welcomed the idea and are looking forward to setting up a joint working group focused on better support for neurodiverse individuals.

As policymakers and business leaders consider the future of work, they should prioritise neurodiversity in their strategy - not only as a matter of inclusion, but as a path to solving some of the challenges facing the labour market.

When we talk about neurodiversity, it isn’t a recognition limited to those with ADHD, dyslexia, and autism. It also encompasses other mental health and developmental conditions that impact how people perceive and interact with the world around them. Recognising and respecting neurodiversity rather than regarding it as a barrier to employment opportunities is essential, particularly now with low levels of unemployment and workforce shortages across the economy.

The current labour market is increasingly competitive, with businesses facing a growing skills gap and often needing help to find the right talent. The neurodiverse population remains largely untapped, with less than a third of the UK’s available neurodiverse labour force in employment, the lowest proportion across all disabilities, as reported by the Office of National Statistics.

This disappointing position for neurodiverse individuals in our economy led me to start the Neurodiversity in Business charity two years ago. By spreading awareness about neurodiversity and collaborating with organisations from multiple sectors, we hope to help implement solutions that improve working conditions and increase the recruitment and retention of neurodiverse talent.

Including the likes of Unilever, McDonald’s, Virgin Media, IBM, SalesForce, KPMG and Lloyds Bank, the commitment of our corporate members stands testament to the charity’s ongoing work in this field. By leveraging the unique skills of neurodiverse individuals, businesses can enrich their workforce and tap into innovative problem-solving approaches that could help them stay ahead of the curve.

By leveraging the unique skills of neurodiverse individuals, businesses can enrich their workforce and tap into innovative problem-solving approaches that could help them stay ahead of the curve Quote

However, more needs to be done. Society has a long way to go when two-thirds of UK businesses still ignore neurodiversity as part of their employee wellbeing programmes. Lasting change that creates an aware and accepting society celebrating neurodiversity needs to start with support from policymakers.

We need to further support legislation that protects and promotes the interests of neurodiverse people. The Equality Act 2010, for instance, serves as an example of what can be done in this field. This landmark legislation classifies neurodiverse conditions as protected characteristics and requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to ensure their employees’ equitable treatment. 

Nonetheless, despite some successes, policymakers must play a more proactive role in encouraging businesses on this issue. Dr Lisa Cameron MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability and supports the Neurodiversity in Business charity, has been advocating for this. Other MPs must follow in Dr Cameron’s footsteps and champion neurodiverse employment.

By embracing neurodiverse employment, businesses can help remedy labour market challenges while unlocking innovative potential within their workforce. Policymakers should take heed of the rapid momentum behind this movement and do more to support it, to ensure that neurodiverse employment can transform the future of work.

O Nh I Nu PT 400x400

Dan Harris is the founder and chairperson of Neurodiversity in Business, a global charity supporting neurodivergent professionals and promoting inclusive workplaces.

What to read next
Shutterstock 2103803399
The publication of the Cass Review last Wednesday serves as a...
Screenshot 2023 10 03 173328
Ellis Coughlan
April 17, 2024
Shutterstock 709431595
In the United Kingdom, a nation that holds its healthcare system...
BP Headshot
Bradley Powell
April 4, 2024
Shutterstock 2359499063
Health policy in the UK has taken a rather sharp prohibitionist...
Sam Chandler Headshot scaled
Sam Chandler
March 21, 2024