Reasonable adjustments can really support someone neurodivergent to thrive, both within the recruitment process and within work. This guide teaches you all about reasonable adjustments, including what they are, how they can benefit you, and examples to help you understand what is best to ask for.
What are reasonable adjustments?
But before we get into examples, it’s really important to understand what reasonable adjustments are and how they can benefit neurodivergent individuals. Reasonable adjustments refer to any changes or modifications made to support neurodivergent individuals to enable them to thrive both in the recruitment process and within the workplace.
They aim to help reduce any barriers that may prevent someone neurodivergent from accessing the workplace. The law is also on your side as reasonable adjustments are under the Equality Act of 2010.
What does the Equality Act say about reasonable adjustments?
The Equality Act of 2010 is a UK law that provides legal protection to neurodivergent individuals. The Act says that employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments, and that employers must use these to ensure that neurodivergent people are not disadvantaged when accessing employment opportunities.
Specifically, the Act states that employers must take reasonable steps to avoid putting neurodivergent individuals as a substantial disadvantage compared to neurotypical individuals (those without a neurodivergent condition).
I’m neurodivergent, can I get reasonable adjustments?
Yes, as a neurodivergent individual, you are entitled to reasonable adjustments, provided your neurodivergent condition meets the legal definition of a disability. The Act defines a disability as a ‘physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities’.
You do not necessarily need a formal diagnosis to request reasonable adjustments. However, it can be helpful to have a formal diagnosis of a condition, as it can be used to provide evidence to support your request for reasonable adjustments.
I’m neurodivergent and applying for jobs, how do I ask for reasonable adjustments?
- Speak to your manager or HR department. The first thing you should do is schedule a meeting with your manager or representative from your HR department to discuss your needs. Here you should explain your neurodivergent condition and how it impacts your work, and provide some examples of situations where you have faced these difficulties due to your condition. If you’re worried about talking to your manager first, have a confidential meeting with HR where they can advise you if you’re worried.
- Be clear and specific about the adjustments you need. Explain the specific adjustments you need to help you perform your job more effectively.
- Explain your strengths that come from your condition. Although you are requesting adjustments to help reduce any challenges, its really important to highlight the strengths your condition gives you in certain areas too.
- Provide evidence if necessary. If you have a formal diagnosis of a neurodivergent condition, you can provide this to your employer as evidence. If you do not have a formal diagnosis, you could provide reports or assessments from healthcare professionals, or Occupational Health.
- Use our Reasonable Adjustments Passport template to help facilitate the conversation with you and your manager. Reasonable adjustments need to be agreed before they are implemented, and this can help do that.
- Follow up with your manager. A week after your meeting or conversation, its important to follow up with your manager to determine any progress and see how you can implement the necessary adjustments. If you have any concerns or questions, speak to HR.
What are some examples of reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent employees?
For employees who experience hyperactivity, which involves increased activity levels, restlessness, and difficulty maintaining focus, certain adjustments can greatly support their well-being and productivity. If you’re a neurodivergent employee facing hyperactivity-related challenges, here are some suggestions for reasonable adjustments you could consider requesting:
- Flexible Work Arrangements: Ask for flexible work hours or remote work options, which can enable you to manage your energy levels and choose the periods when you are most focused and productive.
- Quiet Workspaces: Request a dedicated, quiet workspace or permission to use noise-cancelling headphones to minimise distractions and create an environment that supports your concentration and attention.
- Structured Work Environment: Advocate for clear routines, schedules, and guidelines in the workplace. This can include regular check-ins, written instructions for tasks and deadlines, and clear expectations to help you stay organised and maintain focus.
- Breaks and Movement Opportunities: Ask for regular short breaks or the opportunity to incorporate movement breaks throughout the workday. These breaks can help you release excess energy, recenter your attention, and prevent restlessness.
Challenges with organisation in the workplace can be a challenge for neurodivergent individuals. It refers to difficulties in managing time, prioritising tasks, maintaining orderliness, and keeping track of deadlines and responsibilities. These difficulties can arise from various neurodivergent conditions, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If you’re a neurodivergent employee facing organisational-related challenges, here are some suggestions for reasonable adjustments you could consider requesting:
- Clear Expectations and Written Instructions: You could ask for clear and concise instructions for tasks, projects, and deadlines. Having written instructions will provide you with a reference point, reducing confusion and ensuring that you understand your responsibilities accurately.
- Task Management Tools: You could ask for access to task management tools like project management software, to-do lists, or daily planners. These tools can help you organize your workload, set priorities, and track your progress effectively.
- Time Management Support: Request resources or training on effective time management techniques that suit your neurodivergent needs. Techniques such as using timers, setting reminders, or breaking tasks into smaller steps can enhance your ability to manage your time more efficiently.
- Visual Supports and Prompts: Ask for visual aids that can support your organisation skills. Calendars, color-coding systems, or visual schedules can provide a clear representation of deadlines, meetings, and important events, making it easier for you to plan and organise your tasks effectively.
- Structured Checklists and Templates: Request the availability of structured checklists or templates for common tasks or projects. These resources will guide you through a step-by-step process, ensuring that you don’t miss important details. You can also use them as a reference for future similar tasks.
Challenge: Working Memory
In the workplace, having a strong working memory is crucial for processing and retaining information, making connections, and completing tasks efficiently. However, for neurodivergent individuals who face challenges with working memory, these tasks can become more demanding. Here are some examples of adjustments you could ask for:
- Written Instructions and Visual Aids: You could ask for written instructions, checklists, or visual aids for tasks and procedures. Having these resources readily available will provide you with a reference to refresh your memory and reinforce important information.
- Extended Time for Tasks: Requesting extended time for completing tasks can help alleviate the pressure caused by working memory challenges. It allows you to take the necessary time to process information and perform at your best.
- Memory Prompts and Reminders: Ask for the option to use memory prompts and reminders, such as sticky notes, digital reminders, or alarms. These tools can help jog your memory and keep important information at the forefront of your mind.
Challenge: Social Interaction
Interpersonal interactions and social dynamics play a significant role in the workplace. However, for neurodivergent individuals who face challenges with social interaction, navigating these interactions can be overwhelming and stressful. Here are some examples of adjustments you could ask for:
- Clear Communication Expectations: You could ask for clear communication expectations, such as explicit guidelines for meetings or collaborative projects. Clearly defining roles, responsibilities, and expectations can help reduce ambiguity and provide a structured framework for interactions.
- Accommodations for Team Meetings: Ask for accommodations during team meetings, such as having an agenda beforehand or the opportunity to contribute ideas or questions in writing before or after the meeting. This can alleviate the pressure of on-the-spot interactions and ensure your input is considered.
- Breaks and Quiet Spaces: Request access to quiet spaces or designated break areas where you can retreat to recharge and process social interactions. Taking short breaks during the workday can help alleviate sensory overload and provide a necessary respite.
- Written Communication Options: Consider asking for the option to communicate via written channels, such as emails or instant messaging, when appropriate. Written communication allows for more time to process information, formulate responses, and reduce anxiety associated with immediate verbal interactions.
Challenge: Sensory Sensitivities
Sensory sensitivities can significantly impact the well-being and productivity of neurodivergent individuals in the workplace. These sensitivities can involve heightened or decreased sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, light, touch, or smells. Here are some examples of adjustments you could ask for:
- Noise Reduction Measures: You could ask for noise reduction measures, such as the option to use noise-cancelling headphones, requesting a quieter workspace, or having a designated quiet room where you can retreat when overwhelmed by noise.
- Lighting Adjustments: Requesting lighting adjustments, such as the use of adjustable or dimmable lighting, diffusers, or filters to reduce harsh glare, can help alleviate sensory discomfort and create a more visually comfortable workspace.
- Flexible Seating Arrangements: Ask for the flexibility to choose a seating arrangement that suits your sensory needs. This might include options for a private or secluded workspace, adjustable ergonomic furniture, or the ability to switch seating locations if necessary.
- Sensory Breaks and Safe Spaces: Consider requesting regular sensory breaks or access to designated safe spaces where you can relax and recalibrate your sensory system. These breaks can help you manage sensory overload and maintain focus and well-being throughout the workday.
- Scent-Free Policy: Inquire about implementing a scent-free policy in the workplace to accommodate individuals with scent sensitivities. This policy can help create a fragrance-free environment, minimizing potential triggers and ensuring a more comfortable workspace for all employees.
Challenge: Reading and Writing
Reading and writing are fundamental skills required in many workplaces, but for neurodivergent individuals who face challenges in these areas, it can be a source of frustration and hinder their overall performance. Here are some examples of adjustments you could ask for:
- Assistive Technology: You could ask for access to assistive technology tools such as text-to-speech software, speech recognition software, or word prediction software. These tools can help mitigate reading and writing difficulties by providing alternative methods of communication and enhancing accessibility.
- Written Instructions in Alternative Formats: Requesting written instructions in alternative formats, such as bullet points, visual diagrams, or flowcharts, can aid comprehension and make complex information more accessible. This allows you to process and understand instructions more effectively.
- Extended Time for Reading and Writing Tasks: Ask for extended time allowances for reading and writing tasks to accommodate the additional time you may require to process information, organise thoughts, or proofread your work. This adjustment can help alleviate time pressure and enhance the quality of your output.
Challenge: Concentration and Focus, Getting Distracted
Maintaining concentration and focus in the workplace can be challenging, particularly for neurodivergent individuals who experience difficulties with distractions and staying on task. These challenges can impact productivity, task completion, and overall job satisfaction. However, you have the right to request reasonable adjustments that can support your concentration and help create a more conducive work environment. Here are some examples of adjustments you could ask for:
- Noise Reduction Measures: You could ask for noise reduction measures such as using noise-cancelling headphones, requesting a quieter workspace, or establishing designated quiet areas. Minimising auditory distractions can enhance your ability to concentrate and stay focused on your work.
- Visual Cues and Timers: Ask for visual cues and timers to aid in time management and task transitions. Using visual reminders, such as timers, countdown clocks, or task boards, can help you stay on track and manage your time effectively.
- Structured Work Environment: Consider requesting a structured work environment with clear routines, schedules, and guidelines. Having a well-defined workflow, regular check-ins, and written instructions can help you organize tasks, set priorities, and reduce the risk of distractions derailing your focus.
Challenge: Spoken Communication
Effective communication is vital in the workplace, but for neurodivergent individuals who face challenges with spoken communication, it can be a source of frustration and hinder their ability to express themselves and collaborate with colleagues. Here are some examples of adjustments you could ask for:
- Written Communication Options: Ask for written communication options as an alternative to spoken communication. This could include utilizing email, instant messaging, or project management tools to convey ideas, provide updates, or participate in discussions. Written communication allows you more time to process information and express yourself effectively.
- Clear Communication Expectations: Request clear communication expectations and guidelines. This includes providing explicit instructions, setting expectations for response times, and establishing preferred communication methods for different situations. Having clarity in communication protocols can reduce anxiety and enable effective interaction.
- Visual Aids and Presentations: Consider requesting the use of visual aids or presentations during meetings or presentations. Visuals can enhance comprehension and facilitate understanding, allowing you to follow along and contribute more effectively.
- Breakout Sessions or Small Group Discussions: Ask for opportunities for breakout sessions or small group discussions to engage in more focused and intimate conversations. Smaller group settings can reduce potential anxiety and provide a more comfortable environment for expressing thoughts and ideas.
- Preparatory Materials: Inquire about receiving preparatory materials ahead of meetings or discussions. This allows you to review information in advance, enabling better preparation and facilitating active participation during interactions.
Arithmetic skills play a significant role in many workplaces, but for neurodivergent individuals who face challenges with numbers and calculations, it can be a source of frustration and impact their confidence and job performance. Here are some examples of adjustments you could ask for:
- Assistive Technology: Ask for access to assistive technology tools designed to support arithmetic tasks. This could include calculators, math apps, or specialized software that can assist with calculations, formulas, or data analysis. These tools can help mitigate difficulties and enhance accuracy and efficiency.
- Written or Visual Instructions: Request written or visual instructions for arithmetic tasks. Having clear, step-by-step instructions or visual aids, such as diagrams or charts, can aid comprehension and provide additional support in understanding and solving mathematical problems.
- Additional Time: Consider asking for additional time allowances for arithmetic-related tasks. This adjustment can help reduce time pressure, allowing you to work at a pace that suits your needs and ensures accuracy in your calculations.