Submitted to the APPGA, May 2019
Neurodivergent Labour was launched on 9 February 2019 and will have its founding Annual General Meeting later this year. It continues the work of the Labour Party Autism/Neurodiversity Manifesto Steering Group, which formed in 2016 with the support of John McDonnell MP for the purpose of drafting a Manifesto on this issue for the Labour Party.
For more than two years, the Steering Group consulted widely on the content of the Manifesto and received input from many autistic (and otherwise neurodivergent) people; from trade unions and from other relevant organisations. We are confident that the resulting Manifesto represents a set of radical policies with the potential to transform the lives of autistic people for the better.
You can read the Manifesto on our website here: https://neurodiversitymanifesto.com/2018/09/18/labour-party-autism-neurodiversity-manifesto-final-draft-version-2018/
This submission is based on those elements of the Manifesto concerned with employment.
Many environments and essential spheres of life are hostile to autistic people, including workplaces.
Autistic workers (and work-seekers) can also be hampered by barriers in wider society, including: the desperate lack of diagnostic (identification) services; cuts to welfare benefits; benefit sanctions; punitive ‘work capability tests’; shortage of appropriate social care; under-resourcing of schools and lack of autism-appropriate education.
Figures suggest that only 16% of autistic working-age adults are in full-time employment; a further 9% are in part-time employment. This is not because only a fraction of autistic people can work: it is because workplaces are hostile environments for us. Even if a mere 10% more autistic people were allowed access to the workforce, then the economy could be boosted by £593.25 million per year.
Barriers and discrimination in employment include: recruitment, interviews and assessments; the sensory environment at work; social pressures; lack of control over working conditions; and insecure employment.
The law, and the Tory Government’s Autism Strategy, place no obligation on employers to make workplaces and working practices equal and accessible to neurodiverse workforces.
We advocate that the government implement the following policies specifically to address discrimination and disadvantage at work:
- place a legal requirement on employers to make workplaces and working conditions more equal and accessible and less hostile, including through adopting a neurodiversity policy and training for all staff
- require that job applications and interviews are accessible, non-discriminatory and include support
- replace Work Capability Assessments with Workplace Accessibility Assessments.
- pursue a full employment policy, with the right to an appropriate, secure job for all who can work
- remove the cap on Access to Work
- restore Remploy as an employer of disabled people
- ensure that anti-discrimination law covers volunteers as well as employees
- provide support for self-employed autistic people, recognising that commercial and reporting requirements may be difficult to meet.
- apply the principle of Universal Design to make the built environment of workplaces less distressing and more accessible
- make ‘neurological condition’ an additional protected characteristic under the Equality Act, with the same legal protections as disability
- strengthen the Public Sector Equality Duty and extend it to the private sector
- develop the Autism Act to include obligations on employers
- facilitate education and training about autism and neurodiversity at all levels, including for political decision-makers and employers.