What we can do together
Prospect has many members with neurodiverse conditions and we need to be able to offer them the same protection and assistance as any other member.
Of course, Prospect wants to represent our members in the best way possible and therefore we should take account of any reasonable adjustments required for members who are neurodiverse when we are representing members with their personal cases. Prospect is also covered by the provisions of the Equality Act in the services we provide to members.
The reasonable adjustments outlined in our section on What a good manager would do will help, and in particular representatives and negotiators should:
consider methods of communication – for example, would telephone or face-to-face communication be better? But remember to follow up telephone calls and confirm important information or advice in writing; and
ensure that there is a structured approach towards the member and their case, always be clear about what is required of them and what to expect, set out clear timetables for responding to requests for information etc, and allow a rep, friend, colleague or a member of their family to attend meetings with them for support.
The most effective approach for us will be to negotiate with the employer to persuade them to adopt a social model approach to disability. We would then need to set this into practice by discussing all the steps that can be taken to make the employer’s premises, services, provisions and practices free of the barriers that may disadvantage people who are neurodiverse. This will also make them accessible to many other groups of people as well as creating a positive workplace environment and a more committed workforce.
As part of this, branch representatives will need to identify the kind of obstacles that could impact adversely on neurodiverse members and the measures needed to remove them. These could include both physical changes as well as adjustments to working practices to enable members to continue to work.
It is important to negotiate time off for our reps so that they can receive training on disability rights, and particularly on the social model. Employers should also be encouraged to organise training for line managers and supervisors, ideally with reps also attending.
The support of our colleagues is very important and, in consultation with the member concerned, it may be appropriate to train or raise awareness for work colleagues.
Representatives could obtain information from organisations that specialise in neurodiversity and perhaps invite a speaker to address a meeting.
Representatives should also remind employers of the need to avoid discrimination and one of the most effective ways of doing this is to regularly monitor all workplace policies, practices and procedures in relation to protected characteristics. This provides the opportunities for reps to seek more information from the employer – for example, whether reasonable adjustments might be needed in particular areas.
Employers may need to be reminded of their legal obligations so that suitable outcomes can be provided for our members, not least to avoid the risk of exposure in an employment tribunal and associated costs. Contact your Prospect full-time officer for advice and support at the earliest opportunity if you have a potential discrimination case.
What if the member has not had a professional assessment?
There may be situations where representatives will recognise some of the traits associated with neurodiversity but the member has never had a professional assessment because of their coping strategies used throughout their life.
In these situations, there is a role for reps to guide the member towards an initial assessment, perhaps through screening tests available online (see links section), and then subsequently towards a more professional assessment. Organisations such as Fitzgibbon Associates and the British Dyslexia Association charge a fee for their assessments, which the employer should pay for.
The member may be concerned about this approach and it will be important for reps to reassure them that if a professional assessment has been carried out, the employer is obliged to provide them with the reasonable adjustments necessary (following a workplace needs assessment) for their particular role. The member may also feel some relief at having their difficulties explained in this way.
Professional assessments, workplace needs assessment and reasonable adjustments are key to members being able to perform at their best and to avoid difficulties over misunderstandings about their capabilities.
Negotiators’ Guide to Disability Equality
See our links and resources page for further information and guidance.