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Resources For Autistic Employees and their Employers: Access to Work
By Jen Blacow, Operations Manager, Aspiedent CIC
24th July 2020
There are three sources of resources for autistic employees and employers regarding ‘reasonable adjustments’ at work:
- The autistic community, which includes material by Janine Booth, an autistic trade unionist, and other Autistic people who generally talk about their own autistic experiences
- Access to Work (ATW)
- Organisations who do Workplace Assessments for autistic employees and make recommendations for reasonable adjustments.
All of the above have a place, but they do need to be treated with care.
For some baffling reason, although there is unanimous agreement that autism is a very heterogeneous condition where autistic people are very different from each other, with different difficulties and strengths & weaknesses, as soon as comes to determining ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace, autism is suddenly treated as a homogeneous condition!
This post is the first in a series about resources for autistic employees and managers of autistic employees. The first part is about DWP’s best kept secret: Access to Work. We will cover the others in subsequent posts.
Access to Work
A google search will throw up many different organisations offering various services and several publications on the topic. However, what does not usually come up is the very useful government service called Access to Work.
Access to Work (also known as ATW) is a public service which is part of Job Centre Plus. Not many people know about Access to Work, although it is a really great and highly valuable resource. But be warned it can sometimes be an administrative nightmare. If you can manage processes and procedures, and can assert yourself, you should be OK. If not, get help!
So how does Access to Work, work?
Any autistic (or otherwise disabled) employee can ask ATW to drop by their workplace and do an assessment regarding what equipment and assistance they may need in order to do help them do their job (hence the title ‘Access to Work’). From this, the assessor can recommend equipment and software from a wide choice for a wide range of difficulties.
For example, they may recommend height adjustable desks for tall people, special chairs for those with back problems, and a range of software for those with dyslexia and/or autism. They will also recommend job coaches or support workers where this is deemed appropriate. They will even fund taxi rides to and from work if this is deemed a reasonable adjustment.
ATW fund everything for a new employee; funding for employees who have been employed for more than 6 weeks is on a sliding scale depending on the size of the employer. It is all free for employers with fewer than 50 employees (yes, free!).
Ongoing costs for job coaches and support workers is also free, although ATW is very resistant to funding support workers. Annoyingly, it is up to the employer to source job coaches and support workers (but employers can use existing staff to support a disabled employer and claim the money back from ATW).
More on Access to Work Assessments…
They are far better than nothing, but Access to Work, and indeed standard Occupational Health Assessments, only go so far in helping people with disabilities like autism. This is because they are generalised assessments, and assessors only tend to choose from a standard set of equipment and software to help disabled employees. They will pay for other things, but you have to know to ask for it and make a case.
When it comes to autism, there is a standard list of aids to choose from, but there is no guarantee that what is provided will actually be appropriate. In our experience the assessors ask the autistic employee what they think will be appropriate.
If the autistic person has a full understanding of their own autism and the actual issues that cause the autistic symptoms, this works. Importantly though, this is not often the case and you will find it helpful to first obtain an assessment from someone, like Aspiedent, who can really figure out what is going on with the autism and make recommendations. ATW can then be approached to provide funding.
For more information about Access to Work see: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-guide-for-employers/access-to-work-factsheet-for-employers
In our next posts we will look at workplace assessments and other resources available to autistic employees and their employers.
If you need help with autism in the workplace, or would like to know more about how Aspiedent might be able to help you, contact us now.