Much more needs to be done to encourage people with autism into the workplace says charity
Less than one in five people with autism are in full time work, a charity has found.
The National Autistic Society (NAS) says governments and employers are letting people with the condition down.
A survey by NAS found that the employment levels amongst people on the autistic spectrum has remained the same since 2007.
The poll, of 2,000 autistic adults across the UK, found that only 32% are in some kind of paid work, compared to 47% of disabled people and 80% of non-disabled people. However, more than three quarters who are unemployed say they want to work although four in 10 have never worked at all.
It’s not just autistic people who are missing out – employers are missing out on the benefits of a diverse workforce
More than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, including around 37,000 autistic people of working age in Scotland.
Being autistic means you see, hear and feel the world in a different, often more intense way from others. Autistic people often find social situations difficult, can struggle to process information quickly and may be highly sensitive to sound or light or smells.
This can make finding and staying in a job very difficult if managers, employers and colleagues don’t understand autism.
The NAS says that though not all autistic people are able to work, with understanding from their employer and colleagues, as well as reasonable adjustments to the interview process and workplace, many autistic people can be a real asset to businesses.
Jenny Paterson, director of NAS Scotland, said: “Our research reveals shocking levels of underemployment among autistic people. And it’s not just autistic people who are missing out on the chance of a fulfilling career – employers are missing out on the benefits of a diverse workforce.
“UK governments have introduced various schemes aimed at improving the disability employment rate over the years. But it clearly hasn’t worked for autistic people.
“With the devolution of powers in April 2017, the Scottish Government has the opportunity to close the autism employment gap. We’re calling on it to consult with autistic people, their families and the third sector as it implements the new programmes and make sure they include autism-specific support.
“Autism is a spectrum condition and not all autistic people are able to work. But many autistic people are desperate to find a job. With a little understanding from employers and small adjustments to working practices, autistic people can make a huge contribution to companies across our country.”
Michael Clarkson, 42, from Glasgow, has Asperger syndrome. He has four degrees and is currently employed at two leading universities in roles that include IT tutoring, exam invigilation, and visa checking. In the past, he has also worked in IT support.
He said: “Some of the traits relating to my Asperger’s mean that I am good at my jobs. I have excellent concentration, focus for repetitive tasks and high attention to detail. I am an honest worker who takes pride in all that I do.
“Despite this, I have faced barriers to employment. Job interviews can be difficult and I think that employers sometimes feel that they would be taking an increased risk in employing me, a person who has Asperger’s. I should be able to walk into a good job given my skills, qualifications and relevant experience, but I have been held back due to the way society handles my Asperger syndrome.”