Conversations about neurodiversity: Part 2

Neurodiversity could be considered one of the most challenging areas within diversity and inclusion – complex, nuanced and often invisible – yet it offers a business upside in this context, given that neurodivergent people literally think differently[1].

For example, dyslexic and dyspraxic people have a unique ability to ‘think outside the box’ and frequently have a greater capacity for innovative, visionary and creative thinking. Autistic people often bring strengths to their work such as analytical thinking, focus and attention to detail. Traits associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can include an ability to focus for extended periods, multitasking and being calm under pressure[2]. All these skills are extremely valuable to have in organisations, particularly when thinking about organisational growth, innovation and continuity.

Moreover, the very nature of engineering, and NDT specifically, requires people who can think creatively, outside the box, and apply their knowledge in different ways to help solve the problems and challenges faced everyday within our industry. Because neurodivergent individuals process information differently, they are able to see things from different angles and provide solutions that neurotypical individuals may not consider, therefore providing extremely valuable skillsets to the industry.

However, it is important to emphasise that organisations need to create an inclusive environment to enable neurodivergent individuals to deliver their skillset in this way, to cultivate their abilities and enable them to flourish in their role. Some examples of steps organisations could take to create a more inclusive culture include:
  • Raising awareness of what neurodiversity means within the organisation through training employees and managers to help overcome potential unconscious biases;
  • Introducing clear, organisation-wide neurodiversity-aware policies and procedures;
  • Creating a non-judgemental environment and a safe space for employees to be able to hold conversations surrounding neurodiversity; and
  • Awareness of potential reasonable adjustments that can be made to ensure neurodivergent individuals can work to the best of their abilities.

Focusing on the last point above, it is important to recognise that employers have a legal responsibility to ensure reasonable adjustments are made for neurodivergent individuals as they are protected under the Equality Act 2010. This is because neurodiversity falls under the protected characteristic of disability. It is worth emphasising that although most people with neurodifferences do not see themselves as disabled, when looking at the law we need to look at disability through the lens of the Equality Act.

A person is defined as 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”[3].

Day-to-day activities are defined as: “normal daily life activities such as getting up in the morning, getting dressed, walking a certain distance. More specialised activities, such as an ability to lift heavy objects, would not be classed as normal day-to-day activities”[3].

This provides neurodivergent individuals with legal protection against discrimination (direct and indirect), harassment and victimisation. Neurodiversities such as ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia and dyscalculia have all been recognised by employment tribunals as disabilities.

Organisations are obliged, under the Equality Act 2010, to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.

Where a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage […] in comparison with persons who are not disabled, an employer has a duty to take such steps as are reasonable to remedy that disadvantage[3].

It is worth noting that many people who are neurodivergent may not have had a formal diagnosis – this may be more so for older people, women and those from ethnic minorities. For organisations, this means there could be more neurodivergent people within the organisation than originally thought. In addition, for public sector employers, there are also additional duties that need to be considered under the Public Sector Equality Duty.

But what is reasonable? Reasonable depends on the case and includes the effectiveness of the adjustment, health and safety, the practicability of making an adjustment, the cost and any potential disruption. Even if there is a significant cost to the organisation, it may still be considered cost-effective overall. Employers also have a duty to consider other sources of funding to make the adjustments, such as Access to Work, and if such funding has not been explored the employer could still be liable.

Examples of reasonable adjustments could include:
  • Adjustments in physical features – moving to a quieter workspace, adjusting workplace lighting or heating, providing a coloured reading panel; etc;
  • Providing auxiliary aids – speech-to-text software, ergonomic keyboards or other assistive technology; and
  • Changes in the employer’s provision criterion or practice – requirements to sit written tests, a longer period of time to complete tasks, etc.

It is important for reasonable adjustments to be made with those who it will be affecting; after all, they know their needs best.

So, as I mentioned in the first part of this article, I hope the above information sparks further discussions on the topic of neurodiversity. I would be interested in hearing your own thoughts and experiences on the topic of neurodiversity within NDT – drop an email to

  1. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), ‘Neurodiversity at work’, February 2018.
  2. D Archer, ‘ADHD: The entrepreneur’s superpower’, Forbes, May 2014.
  3. Equality Act 2010. Available at:

If you have any thoughts or ideas, or are interested in joining the D&I Advisory Group, please get in touch:

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