Fox research shows employment tribunal claims relating to neurodiversity discrimination jump by a third in past year

  • Claims relating to autism rose 40% in the last year
  • Talent war highlights importance of making adjustments for employees

Employment tribunals in which employees alleged they were discriminated against for being ‘neurodiverse’ rose by a third last year to 93 from 70 in 2020, says specialist employment law firm Fox & Partners.

The rise is likely due to an increased awareness about neurodiverse conditions. The number of autism diagnoses increased 787% in the past two decades*, whilst prescriptions for medication to treat ADHD jumped 800%**.

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that describes the differing ways that people’s brains process information and includes, in addition to ADHD and autism, conditions such as dyslexia, and dyspraxia. It is thought around 1 in 7 people in the UK have some kind of neurodivergence***.

Fox says some professional environments may pose problems for those with neurodiversity. Employees with autism may suffer from sensory overload due to noise in the workplace or judging social cues in a professional environment,**** whilst those with ADHD may struggle to focus on tasks or manage their time*****.  It is important however to not make assumptions according to better known characteristics.

Tribunal claims often arise when employees feel side lined or unsupported or they believe they have been dismissed for reasons that are connected to their disability.  Firms need to be mindful that partners and LLP members benefit from protections against disability discrimination.

Fox says businesses that fail to take steps to understand through discussion and embrace neurodivergent individuals may be missing out, particularly at the recruitment or progression stages. 

Given the current skills shortages and the increasing importance of strength in depth within teams in professional practices, overlooking talent from a wider pool should be a cause for concern.

The study shows a 40% rise in employment tribunals relating to autism, a 31% rise in Asperger’s cases and a 14% rise in dyslexia claims in the last year alone.

Fox says that many individuals also now feel more comfortable discussing their differences in the workplace more openly. Following the pandemic, conversations about mental health and disability visibility have become more commonplace.

Employers who are aware of neurodiverse conditions may need to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for those employees, for example making changes to interview formats and processes for progression.

Fox says that not only should employers be mindful of making adjustments but they should look to harness the advantages of a diverse workforce that includes neurodiverse employees.  Many will excel in creative roles, and strategic thinking and problem solving. 

Leadership can ensure that neurodiverse staff are properly understood given tasks that play to their strengths.

Ivor Adair, Partner at Fox says: “The jump in tribunal claims shows that employers can’t afford to ignore neurodiversity issues. Employees are increasingly willing to disclose they are neurodivergent and aren’t afraid to request reasonable adjustments if their workplace setup places them at a disadvantage, or challenge discriminatory treatment.”

“Employers would be advised to stop making assumptions, work to identify the talents of neurotypicals and understand how they can give their organisation a competitive edge as part of a diverse team

Employment Tribunals relating to neurodivergence increase 33%

(Please note: the sum of the tribunals is not equal to the total, as some tribunals mentioned more than one neurodiversity).

* University of Exeter study, 2021

** British Pharmacological Society, 2016
*** BBC, 2019
**** National Autistic Society
***** Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, NHS