Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Union creates “toolkit” to help employers support neurodivergent workers

Given that 70% of neurodivergent workers report experiencing discrimination at work, trade union GMB hopes to change this by launching a new “toolkit”.

The GMB “toolkit” defines neurodiversity as “the idea that cognitive conditions, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia, are natural variations in the way people think and process information”. In the context of employment, it states that the term “recognises both the difficulties that people who have these conditions may encounter and also the unique strengths that can derive from thinking differently”.

“We want employers to start thinking differently about having a neurodiverse workforce and recognise and help unlock the talents and experience of neurodivergent workers.”

Challenges faced by neurodivergent workers

GMB’s ‘Thinking Differently at Work’ toolkit is designed to help create more inclusive environments in light of the discrimination faced by neurodivergent workers:

  • Only 10% of employers explicitly address neurodiversity through their people management policies and practices*
  • The number of dyslexic workers receiving support through the Access to Work programme increased by 15% between 2015/16 and 2016/17**
  • 32% of autistic adults are in employment – and only 16% of autistic adults are in full time employment – despite the fact that 77% of unemployed autistic people want to work***
  • The unemployment rate is more than twice as high for disabled adults (at 8.8%) than it is for adults who are not disabled (at 3.4%)****

Nell Andrew, GMB Equalities Officer, said:

“Whilst we might be in the in the dark when it comes to knowing the true financial impact of discrimination against neurodivergent workers, we do know the massive detrimental impact on neurodivergent workers’ lives. We need better training, policies and support for managers to ensure their neurodivergent employees don’t lose out –  from loss of dignity and confidence, progression opportunities and for some neurodivergent people like me, even losing out on job opportunities.

Neurodivergent workers are not looking for pity, ‘special treatment’ or a one size fits all approach to reasonable adjustments. We want the right to achieve our full potential, to develop careers and to access training, and have the opportunity to succeed and be valued at work”.

The GMB neurodiversity toolkit includes advice for employers on the vast scope of adjustments that may help to accommodate workers: from interviews to office spaces. As well as practical recommendations, legislation concerning discrimination and equality is included. 

 GMB rep Sherine Thompson says that “since joining GMB, I have my confidence and inner joy back. I now see my dyslexia as a gift that enables me to think out of the box and utilise my creative side.”


Click here to download the GMB toolkit.



* Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 1 in 10 HR professionals say their organisation is now focusing on neurodiversity at work, 15 February 2018,https://www.cipd.co.uk/about/media/press/150218-neurodiversity

** DWP response to GMB Freedom of Information Act request 04 October 2018.

*** National Autistic Society, The autism employment gap: Too Much Information in the workplace, 2016 https://www.autism.org.uk/~/media/nas/get-involved/tmi/tmi%20employment%20report%2024pp%20web.ashx?la=en-gb

**** House of Commons Library, briefing paper: People with disabilities in employment, 16 August 2018, https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7540

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