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04/08/2021

New research reveals 9 in 10 autistic people believe their autism makes it difficult to get a job

Waterford parents of children with autism invited to take part in DCU project

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Nine in ten people within Ireland’s autism community believe it is more difficult to find a job as an autistic person compared to a neurotypical person, according to a new report published by e-recruitment platform IrishJobs.ie and Autism charity AsIAm. 

The report was launched today, March 30 ahead of World Autism Day which take place on Friday, 2 April.  It also marks the commencement of a new partnership between IrishJobs.ie and AsIAm aimed at delivering improved access to employment amongst autistic talent.

Autism in the workplace

The Autism in the Workplace Report surveys both employers and members of the autistic community on their differing experiences and perceptions of autism within the Irish workplace.  According to its findings, almost four in five autistic people in Ireland face barriers to getting the job they want, with 72% citing that having to ‘mask’ or hide their autistic traits to fit in with colleagues as one of the main barriers to finding the right role.

The report suggests a clear lack of understanding of autism on the part of employers, making it all the more difficult for autistic employees to disclose their diagnosis.  It found that three in four employers (75%) feel that their organisation’s staff do not know enough about autism to support an autistic colleague. 76% of organisations lack a dedicated autism-friendly workplace policy.

Other common barriers to employment cited within the research include:

  • Explaining your diagnosis and access needs to managers or colleagues (66%)
  • Navigating the job interview process (63%)
  • Outdated perceptions of autism among employers (63%)
  • Different communication styles not being recognised or accommodated (61%)
  • Pressure to adhere to workplace ‘social rules’ or ‘norms’ that you do not know about (58%)
  • Less than three in ten (29%) organisations currently employ, or are aware of employing, autistic individuals.  Among this cohort of employers, all recognise (100%) that these autistic employees made a positive contribution to the workplace.

Other key findings amongst the employers include:

  • 56% of employers have had challenges filling roles due to lack of suitable candidates.
  • 85% believe an autistic person could make a positive contribution in the workplace.
  • 75% believe their current application and interview process would be accessible to an autistic person, yet only 25% of employers have made reasonable accommodations for autistic candidates in their recruitment or interview processes.
  • 16% of employers provide employment opportunities for autistic individuals with higher support needs.
  • Available Government supports

The Irish Government provides a number of supports for employers hiring autistic individuals, however the research demonstrates a clear lack of awareness and deployment of these supports. 

According to the research, only 16% of employers are aware of the various Government supports or schemes available toward recruiting and retaining autistic talent and only two per cent of employers have availed of these supports.  In total, 91% of employers believe there are insufficient supports and information for employers looking to recruit autistic individuals. 

IrishJobs.ie/AsIAm partnership

Central to the IrishJobs.ie and AsIAm partnership will be a series of masterclasses, training programmes and toolkits designed to educate employers on how best to support autistic employees and prospective employees, and in doing so, assist employers in tapping into this often-overlooked pool of talent.  These new employer resources will cover themes including recruitment and onboarding, workplace culture and attitudes to neurodiversity, self-advocacy in the workplace and career progression and personal development.

Speaking at the launch of the new partnership, Orla Moran, General Manager of IrishJobs.ie, said “Diversity and inclusion have become an increasingly prominent theme among employers in recent years, and there is a genuine recognition in industry that more needs to be done in this space. However, despite recent progress, autism is all too frequently either overlooked or misunderstood when we talk about workplace diversity and inclusion.  Frustratingly, at a time when more than half of employers are struggling to meet their recruitment needs, many are missing a trick by not tapping into this talent pool. Furthermore, many employers are unaware of the various Government and charitable supports available to those open to recruiting in this space.

According to Ms Moran: “IrishJobs.ie is uniquely placed in its understanding of the employment and workplace landscape and the challenges and issues facing both employers and candidates.  We are therefore excited to announce our new partnership with AsIAm and look forward to utilising our shared expertise to deliver meaningful progress for the autistic community across Irish workplace cultures and practices. 

“This journey starts with the rollout of our new series of employer masterclasses and training programmes.  In short, IrishJobs.ie and AsIAm are determined to deliver a tangible growth in the number of autistic people employed across Ireland, and ultimately we see this as a win-win outcome for both employers and employees.”

Commenting on the research findings Adam Harris, Chief Executive of AsIAm: “This report highlights the very real barriers that exist for autistic people in securing employment.  We need to address this as a matter of urgency, to understanding and engagement amongst employers so that we create an environment in which autistic people have a real opportunity of inclusivity in the workplace. Autistic people are as diverse as the society we live in and are already making contributions to communities across Ireland.  We need to work together to educate companies on the huge contribution autistic people can make to the workforce and on the valuable contribution they can make to the economy.  Our aim is to have a more inclusive society which is fair to autistic people and as we emerge from this pandemic we have an amazing opportunity to start afresh, to create a workforce which truly accepts autistic people - valuing our contribution, meeting our needs and working together.”

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