06:28 GMT22 October 2020
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    The Labour Party has accused chancellor, Rishi Sunak, of discarding more than 1m jobs to the “scrapheap”. The shadow chancellor claims the government is failing to protect workers in the hard-hit event and festival industries in his new COVID plans.

    Beyond this, advocates for disabled workers have raised concerns that businesses are not doing enough to protect workers from minority backgrounds who could find themselves more likely to be at risk of unemployment due to the upcoming economic downturn.

    Carol Adams, Professor of Accounting at Durham University explains some of the issues neurodiverse candidates could have entered the workplace.

    Sputnik: Why are people on the autistic spectrum so underrepresented in the workforce? 

    Carol Adams: Well, it is shocking, isn't it with only 16% in full time employment despite 77% wanting to work. I think it's due to a lack of awareness of the positive traits of people with autism. Evidence Based decision makers persistent at solving problems, looking at problems from a different perspective, integrity, strong work ethic and then there's also indirect discrimination through a lack of understanding of how autistic people communicate.

    So for example, misunderstanding, lack of eye contact or not doing small talk as 'disinterest', which is really not the case. I think organisations need to need to really think about what's more important for a cleaner, lab technician, surgeon or a teacher? Is it knowledge, ability or work ethic? Or is it eye contact or small talk? And employers are not are not accountable, which is another issue. They're reporting figures on equal opportunities and equality for other issues, but not for the employment of autistic people.

    Sputnik: Now what kind of hiring practices could lead to more neuro diverse candidates being employed here in the UK? 

    Carol Adams: Well, I think interviews put autistic people at a disadvantage, there might be some anxiety there. I've read books about interviews and they say that people make up their mind in the first 20 seconds of somebody walking into the interview room. That's about how they present themselves socially. I had a student once when I was a professor at the University of Glasgow, who wore a hijab and she was asked by employers, whether she would wear it when she went to visit clients. So there is this bias in the interview process of people not looking at the skills that a person has.

    And I think employers need to really start shouting out the benefits of people who are neuro diverse in employment. So SAP, for example, speaks about a rise in patents and product innovations because of their autism hiring programme because autistic people do tend to find solutions to problems and look at things through different perspectives from neurotypical people. So that focus on the skills is really important. And I think building a culture that embraces diversity, whether that's gender, race, or neuro diversity is really important in any organisation.

    Sputnik: Now we're entering a period of economic uncertainty, do you think that could lead to a situation where employers are less likely to take the perceived 'risk' of employing someone from a neuro diverse background?

    Carol Adams: I think it's a bigger problem than that, really, I think, employers there is a lack of awareness of what autistic people have to offer. I think this needs monitoring by the government. Employers ought to be accountable as they are with other aspects of equality. And lumping autistic people with other types of disability would mask the much lower employment rates for autistic people.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    jobs, employers, autistic, coronavirus, COVID-19, United Kingdom
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