Asperger’s is employment tribunal ‘time bomb’
Managers are actively passing over mildly Autistic employees for promotion because they do not have good social skills, a practice that is waiting to backfire at an employment tribunal. Employers in industries where autism rates are high are setting themselves up for a range of tribunal cases especially when the European Union’s discrimination legislation is fully implemented in the UK, it was claimed today.
Chartered Clinical Psychologist, Dr David Ruthenberg, told HR Gateway that many employers are passing over Asperger’s suffers for promotion as they lack the ‘soft skills’ demanded of managers:
‘In my experience of working in the “Golden Triangle” around Cambridge, employees are feeling very frustrated by colleagues leapfrogging them into management positions because of their lack of social skills.
‘This is a time bomb waiting to go off, especially when EU legislation is fully implemented in the UK, as there are many ways to help them. BT, for example, actively recruits Asperger’s suffers through the National Autism Society for certain roles and career paths. There is no excuse,’ he said.
Currently working with Nortel, Ruthenburg warns that industries such as IT, engineering and pharmaceuticals are some of the most at risk, but many steps can be taken to help sufferers, and not steps that demand a severe amount of company reorganisation:
‘Managers need to be educated on matters of Asperger’s and Autism, while firms could take into account the personality of sufferers. Open plan spaces and networking all go against the Apserger personality. Sitting in a small office undertaking meticulous tasks that need attention to detail is what would suite them.
‘Many firms have the problem that sufferers tend to be very bright, talented people which they end up losing because they do not understand their position. Create roles for them where they can excel and advance so that they are not looked over for promotion,’ he advised.
Rates of Asperger’s in the population may be as high as one on 100 although the diagnosis is difficult. It is caused by different hardwiring in the brain meaning social skills, planning and the inability to learn from previous social encounters may be prevalent.
Suffers may have mild obsessions about personal behaviour or domestic rituals which could concern colleagues unless they understand that it is necessary to reduce personal anxiety.