Most autistic people in Ireland struggle to get a job

The Autism in the Workplace Report from IrishJobs.ie and AsIAm reveals that almost four in five autistic people face barriers to employment in Ireland.

Nine in ten people within Ireland’s autism community believe it is more difficult to find a job as an autistic person compared to a neurotypical person, according to a new report published by e-recruitment platform IrishJobs.ie and autism charity AsIAm.

The report, published ahead of World Autism Day today (2 April) surveyed both employers and members of the autistic community on their differing experiences and perceptions of autism within the Irish workplace.

“Frustratingly, at a time when more than half of employers are struggling to meet their recruitment needs, many are missing a trick by not tapping into this talent pool”

According to its findings, almost four in five autistic people in Ireland face barriers to getting the job they want, with 72pc citing that having to ‘mask’ or hide their autistic traits to fit in with colleagues as one of the main barriers to finding the right role.

The report suggests a clear lack of understanding of autism on the part of employers, making it all the more difficult for autistic employees to disclose their diagnosis.  It found that three in four employers (75pc) feel that their organisation’s staff do not know enough about autism to support an autistic colleague. 76pc of organisations lack a dedicated autism-friendly workplace policy.

Common barriers include explaining your diagnosis to managers and colleagues (66pc), navigating the job interview process (63pc), outdated perceptions of autism among employers (63pc), communication styles not being accommodated (61pc) and pressure to adhere to workplace social norms you don’t know about (58pc).

On the flipside, 56pc of employers say they’ve had challenges filling roles due to suitable candidates.

Some 85pc believe an autistic person could make a positive contribution to the workplace.

75pc believe their current application and interview process would be accessible to an autistic person, yet only 25pc of employers have made reasonable accommodations for autistic candidates in their recruitment or interview processes.

Diversity and inclusion

According to the research, only 16pc of employers are aware of the various Government supports or schemes available toward recruiting and retaining autistic talent and only two per cent of employers have availed of these supports.  In total, 91pc of employers believe there are insufficient supports and information for employers looking to recruit autistic individuals. 

“Autistic people are as diverse as the society we live in and are already making contributions to communities across Ireland”

“Diversity and inclusion have become an increasingly prominent theme among employers in recent years, and there is a genuine recognition in industry that more needs to be done in this space,” said Orla Moran, general manager of IrishJobs.ie.

“However, despite recent progress, autism is all too frequently either overlooked or misunderstood when we talk about workplace diversity and inclusion.  Frustratingly, at a time when more than half of employers are struggling to meet their recruitment needs, many are missing a trick by not tapping into this talent pool. Furthermore, many employers are unaware of the various Government and charitable supports available to those open to recruiting in this space.”

The publication of the report coincides with the commencement of a new partnership between IrishJobs.ie and AsIAm aimed at delivering improved access to employment amongst autistic talent. This journey starts with the rollout of our new series of employer masterclasses and training programmes.  In short, IrishJobs.ie and AsIAm are determined to deliver a tangible growth in the number of autistic people employed across Ireland, and ultimately we see this as a win-win outcome for both employers and employees,” said Moran.

Commenting on the research findings Adam Harris, chief executive of AsIAm said: “This report highlights the very real barriers that exist for autistic people in securing employment.  We need to address this as a matter of urgency, to understanding and engagement amongst employers so that we create an environment in which autistic people have a real opportunity of inclusivity in the workplace.

“Autistic people are as diverse as the society we live in and are already making contributions to communities across Ireland.  We need to work together to educate companies on the huge contribution autistic people can make to the workforce and on the valuable contribution they can make to the economy. 

“Our aim is to have a more inclusive society which is fair to autistic people and as we emerge from this pandemic we have an amazing opportunity to start afresh, to create a workforce which truly accepts autistic people – valuing our contribution, meeting our needs and working together.”

“Working in partnership with IrishJobs.ie, and our partner organisations, we are committed to supporting both autistic people and employers to create inclusive workplaces. Any businesses which wish to take the first step can get in touch with us directly,” Harris added.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 2 April 2021