Plans to double the employment rate of people with autism by 2030

Rebecca Sterry – Autistic

October 19, 2022

Only 2 in 10 people with autism are employed, the lowest employment rate of any disability group. But diverse ways of thinking can bring huge benefits to businesses. That’s why Autistica is launching an ambitious yet practical, research-driven plan to double the number of people with autism in the workplace by 2030. They’re looking for funders and companies to make it happen.

People with autism often struggle to get jobs, but also to stay there and progress. Just over a third of graduates with autism are employed full-time. People with autism get jobs, are more likely to work in positions below their skill level or in unstable employment.

Being unemployed excludes people with autism from society. This limits their means to support themselves and plan for the future, and has a serious impact on their mental health. It is also a missed opportunity for employers. Many people with autism have skills that are valued by employers. And having people who think differently can give organizations a competitive edge and improve their performance and innovation. Economic models suggest the UK economy loses more than £14.5billion each year because people with autism are out of work.

Autistica has been conducting research with businesses and workers and job seekers with autism for several years. It is this research that made up the Autistica Employment Plan launched today.

“Now is the time for companies to question the way things have always been done. Too many companies use outdated and inaccessible methods to recruit, retain and promote staff, and they are missing out on talent. Our research shows that small changes can make a big difference, like asking interview questions beforehand. We need to improve ourselves by helping each individual perform to the best of their abilities.

Autistica has a proven track record of working with autistic individuals and families, academics, and government. They funded a four-year program of research and evidence-based guidance on neurodiversity in the workplace on topics such as recruitment practices, disclosure, barriers to employment, workplace adjustments, culture change, career progression and retirement planning. They also developed and piloted a graduate internship program with Deutsche Bank UK, then in Singapore, USA and Germany.

I had a hard time finding a job when I left university. One particularly bad experience shook my confidence and my self-esteem hit rock bottom. Seeing an internship for people with autism gave me confidence to apply. The interview process was unlike any interview I had done before. It allowed me to prepare, relax and be myself so I could really show off my skills.

Laurence, Deutsche Bank and Autistica Internship Program Intern

The Employment Plan to double the employment rate of people with autism has two components:

The first part will allow people with autism to develop the skills they need. This includes an employment readiness program, career support profiles to help people with autism identify and apply for the support they need, specialist support programs and resources for career progression.

The second part will allow employers to build neurodiverse and inclusive projects workforce. Autistica will create a Neurodiversity Employer Index so companies can measure and track their progress and work with employers to change their hiring practices and make workplace adjustments. They will continue to support and evaluate employment programs (such as internships) to get more people with autism into work.

This is an ambitious plan and Autistica needs funders, advisors and businesses to make it happen. They encourage potential partners to get in touch to discuss the plan and how they can work together.