30 November 2023
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Disability History Month: How can businesses embrace neurodivergence in recruitment?

To The Point
(5 min read)

Businesses have a lot to gain by embracing neurodiversity in their employee demographic. Neurodivergent employees can bolster the range of skills, talents and opportunities modern enterprises need to succeed in today's market. However, recruitment processes are still heavily biased towards the neurotypical candidate. Not only does this inhibit businesses from sourcing the best talent, it also puts employers at risk of breaking the law. This article examines some of the unintentional barriers that recruitment processes may create and how they can be overcome.


For our third week of articles that spotlight disability issues, we focus on neurodiversity. 

How can businesses embrace neurodivergence in recruitment?

One in every seven people in the UK are estimated to be "neurodivergent". Coined by sociologist Judy Singer, the term "neurodivergence" relates to individuals whose cognitive and neurological functions differ from what is deemed typical or normal (or otherwise known as "neurotypical"). The term is broad and includes a range of clinical classifications, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia. Workplace neurodivergence can bring huge benefits, as many neurodivergent individuals have a range of valuable skills that may exceed the neurotypical in relation to creative thinking, memory, communication and cognitive processing. 

However, despite the many benefits to promoting greater neurodivergence in the workforce, neurodivergent candidates will often encounter barriers in mainstream selection processes. 

The primary risks are in the arena of disability discrimination. For the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, employees and recruitment candidates will be deemed "disabled" if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Not all cases of neurodivergence will meet this test, but where it is met, the candidate will be protected from discrimination in recruitment and employment.

Established recruitment processes are most likely to come under legal scrutiny where employers fail to make reasonable adjustments required for the disabled candidate, or where they indirectly discriminate against the candidate.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments
Indirect discrimination

Key takeaways

Employers should consider adopting a Neurodiversity Policy to consider better ways to accommodate neurodiverse candidates upon recruitment and beyond. They should also consider alternative recruitment methods and reasonable adjustments where necessary. Promoting awareness of neurodivergence through manager training can also help break down barriers when recruiting employees.

However, adapting to a neurodiverse world should not just be seen as a legal requirement or tick box exercise. Employers who lead inclusion by design will enhance their organisation's range of talent, expertise and service offering.

Next steps

If you need any support or advice on neurodiversity, please contact one of the key contacts on this page.

To the Point 

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