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Answering your Questions from the ise Conference

Jul 4, 2024

Last week we attended the Institute of Student Employers (ise) conference in Birmingham, where we held a session titled ‘Embracing Neurodiversity in a Transforming World’. Our discussion centered on the transition of neurodivergent individuals from higher education into the modern workplace, exploring current trends and practical strategies to foster an inclusive journey.

During our session, Tom Wicksteed the Academy Manager of Early Careers at Mishcon de Reya, shared valuable insights into graduate recruitment and neurodiversity in his workplace. The session sparked engaging conversations and numerous questions from attendees. Although we couldn’t address all the questions during the session, we took the time to provide comprehensive answers, which we are now sharing in this blog.

Support for neurodivergent candidates and employees

Question 1: The research has shown a lack of confidence in disclosing neurodiverse conditions. How can we as employers encourage them to disclose so we can help support them in the best way?

Answer 1: Creating a psychologically safe environment is crucial. Senior leadership representation is key to setting the stage for this. When leaders share their own stories, they can resonate with others, making them feel secure about opening up about their experiences. Additional strategies include:

  • Establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) focused on neurodiversity.
  • Forming support groups for neurodiverse parents.
  • Organising regular coffee and connect sessions centered on neurodiversity.
  • Inviting speakers with lived experiences to share their insights.

These initiatives foster confidence, understanding, belonging, and support within the workplace.

Question 2: What suggestions would you have on the menu of support for ND candidates? Clearly, additional time is the most common but what else should employers offer?

Answer 2: Beyond providing extra time, consider these additional supports:

  • Provide questions in advance of the interview date.
  • Offer clear and detailed guidance about the interview process.
  • Provide a choice of assessment formats to accommodate different communication styles.
  • Share photos and brief biographies of the panel members to help candidates familiarise themselves.
  • Offer the option for candidates to choose between an online or in-person interview format.
  • Allow candidates to visit the location beforehand to reduce anxiety.
  • Guide candidates on how to provide comprehensive answers during interviews by asking them to elaborate when necessary.

Question 3: At what point are you asking candidates if they are neurodivergent? At application or once they get to interview?

Answer 3: It is best practice to state in the job advertisement that candidates who need any support or accommodations are encouraged to reach out to discuss this beforehand. This approach ensures that candidates feel comfortable disclosing their needs early in the process.

Question 4: If candidates disclose both medical and personal issues in the application, how will you ensure the reasonable adjustment is fair? Where do you draw the line?

Answer 4: Adopt a universal design of accessibility as it is impossible to know who needs support if they don’t ask. Ensure:

  • Adjustments like providing interview questions in advance.
  • A clear definition of what is considered reasonable is established.
  • Open discussions with candidates to tailor support to individual needs.

Question 5: What can we do as an employer to support trainees who think they might be neurodivergent, such as ADHD, but don’t know how to get a diagnosis?

Answer 5: Employees don’t need a formal diagnosis to receive reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010. However, for conditions like ADHD, a formal diagnosis is required if they should want to take medication. Employers can:

  • Support employees financially for a private assessment.
  • Check if company health insurance covers assessments.
  • Provide reasonable adjustments based on self-insight and workplace support.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for managing performance concerns related to an employee who has an undiagnosed or undisclosed neuro-divergency?

Answer 6: Employers have a responsibility to the employee, and it is specified if they know or could reasonably be expected to know whether an employee is considered disabled under the Equality Act (2010).  When addressing performance concerns related to neurodivergence, it is essential to delve into the difficulties the employee may face due to their condition expression. It would be important to avoid the impression of criticising their performance based on these challenges and instead offer support and understanding. Taking the time to e time to comprehend how the individual feels is important, as they may not have felt comfortable asking for support previously.

Managing conditions not acknowledged in the DSM

Question 7: What is the best advice for supporting candidates/employees with conditions that are challenging to manage in the workplace but are not yet acknowledged as standalone conditions in the DSM (such as Misophonia)?

Answer 7: Under the Equality Act (2010), individuals are considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to carry out normal daily activities. The Act also outlines a list of exclusion criteria, which can be found here: Equality Act 2010 Guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Misophonia, if it has a substantial or long-term impact, would be eligible for reasonable adjustments. Employers should:

  • Educate themselves about conditions like Misophonia.
  • Provide reasonable adjustments tailored to the individual’s needs.
  • Foster an inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their conditions.

Question 8: Can you please repeat the name of the neurodiversity about self-esteem that has not been added to the DSM yet? Is there a timeline for its inclusion?

Answer 8: The condition is Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). Currently, there is no timeline for its inclusion in the DSM. For more information, refer to our recent blog on RSD – Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD) and Neurodiversity – Thriiver

Question 9: How can you best tackle rejecting people in a way that will not bring on/be mindful of rejection sensitivity dysphoria?

Answer 9: It is crucial to understand that neurodiverse (ND) populations are disproportionately impacted by unemployment and likely have experienced many instances of rejection during the application or post-interview process. It is important to personalise and take the time to respond thoughtfully to everyone, not just ND candidates. Rather than giving a generic response, it is essential to highlight what someone did well and what was well-received while also offering clear advice on areas for improvement or gaining more experience in certain areas.

Inclusivity in education

Question 10: Do we have to be more inclusive for neurodiversity in higher education because more are going to university now, i.e., 50% vs 25% of school leavers of decades ago?

Answer 10: Yes, educational providers must understand the evolving student population and ensure equity in education. This involves celebrating neurodiversity, providing practical steps to promote equity, and ensuring all students have access to necessary resources and support. For more detailed insights, refer to this article co-authored on the topic: Equality Act 2010 Guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Question 11: How can we embed this in secondary schools so that students can gain support and an early diagnosis?

Answer 11: It is critically important to prioritise education about neurodiversity in schools. Understanding and education for all children and their peers should be delivered with a focus on accessibility and building on individual strengths. It is imperative that school staff are equipped with the necessary training in this area, and parents should have access to information about the process of applying for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), educational guidance, as well as support for well-being and communication differences. Moreover, it is crucial to offer support for parents who may be neurodivergent themselves, who may be navigating their well-being while advocating for their child.

Conclusion

Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace involves creating an inclusive and supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable and valued. By implementing these strategies, employers can ensure they are providing the best support for neurodivergent employees and candidates. If you have any further questions or need more information, feel free to reach out at hello@thriiver.co.uk.

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