How inclusive is your workplace, really?

Is your workplace really inclusive? What does inclusive mean to you as a parent or employee? Have you personally felt that being at work means you can’t be yourself? (I was that person, which is why I’m a happy self-employed unicorn:)

Money can’t buy happiness, but there is a balance to be struck, especially if you need to be able to support yourself and your neurodiverse family. As an equality advocate and trainer, there is a strong need to improve access and equal treatment across the entire life-cycle of all individuals in society. The campaign for equality doesn’t end at the school gates! Neurodivergent youngsters have a lot to offer the job market, across a range of sectors, employing a diverse set of skills. Why aren’t more employers stepping up? I penned a brief article in Kingston Upon Thames, Borough Business Magazine, here’s a short excerpt:

Embracing your diverse workforce

If you’re looking for legislative guidance or strategic input to support the needs of your disabled staff, you won’t be short on information. But what if your staff have children with disabilities?  Particularly, hidden disabilities, such as ADHD or autism, which are neurological and complex to support?  My book S.E.N.D. in the Clowns takes parents (and employees) on that journey:

Top tips for workplace inclusivity

Getting an autism or ADHD diagnosis can be a relief for many parents. It’s not until the condition starts to impact the daily challenges of school life, that parents realise the extent to which their working life might also be affected. Pupils with a statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) are almost seven times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion than pupils with no SEN and are nine times more likely to receive a fixed period exclusion. The main reason they receive fixed period exclusions is due to ‘persistent disruptive behaviour’ (DfE).

-When your child is excluded and you’re a working parent, you need to arrange extra childminder/nanny/au pair time to supervise your child. If you are self-employed and you take time off, you may not be able to recover loss of earnings.  If you’ve worked for your employer for a year or more on a permanent contract, you have the right to unpaid time off work to look after your children. You can take unpaid time off to deal with unexpected problems, for example when childminding arrangements break down or an exclusion. You also have a responsibility to your employer, outlined in your contract of employment. Remaining in employment is advisable for parents of children with disabilities, to avoid the hardship associated with unemployment. Seek specialist legal advice about your child’s rights. Some S.E.N.D. legal experts provide representation on a lower cost basis if you are a low-income household. Be clear about what you need before you discuss or sign anything. Give yourself time before you appoint a lawyer. Get at least 3 firms to discuss their terms with you.

I was excited to join a team of HR experts and diversity consultants to discuss this matter at the Chessington Expo round table.. this is how the discussion went…

As we move into 2021, the tide is turning and more individuals and groups are seeking equity of opportunity in the workplace, both in terms of obtaining accessible employment and being adequately supported, without discrimination, in the action of delivering that work. According to the National Autistic Society “only 32% of working age autistic people are employed? And many are working in roles that do not make the most of their skills.” This puts the fight for adequate SEND provision at school into sharp focus. I recently got into Twitter thread on this subject with an individual who explained how difficult it is being an autistic employee… I responded that it’s important to set boundaries and self-advocate. There frustrated response was ‘how can I set boundaries and advocate when my livelihood is on the line’?

And there’s the rub: if you require a little help, guidance, adaptations, or even – god forbid – affirmative action to redress an existing imbalance, there’s a danger that your employment may seem to some like a favour; if you rock the boat you’ll be first out. This is deeply unfair and illegal, it’s a question that we need to actively find urgent answers to.

Hope you enjoy the round table video..

©Suzy Rowland

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