Employers are not required to make reasonable adjustments or avoid discrimination arising from disability when they do not and could not know that a person is disabled. An employer’s knowledge of disability does not need to be knowledge that a person meets the Equality Act definition of a disabled person, but rather when the employer knows of the facts of the disability, so being aware that an employee is struggling in the workplace may be enough to put the employer ‘on notice’ that they should make further enquiries about disability and reasonable adjustments.

Some autistic people may have known they autistic from childhood, others may have discovered they were autistic as an adult and so may also be learning about their own autism and what they need to avoid being disadvantaged. Each autistic person will have their own individual profile of areas where they may experience disadvantage and they may have strengths because of their autism.

Employers should treat each autistic person as an individual and not make assumptions about strengths and needs

Adopting a Universal Design approach to employment practice will reduce the need to make basic reasonable adjustments for individual disabled employees, but it will always be necessary to learn more about each disabled person as an individual to ensure that every individual is able to work to their full potential and avoid discrimination.

It is important to respect each individual autistic person’s wishes about confidentiality, some people may not want their autism to be known widely in the organisation and others may be very open about it, employers should actively check what a person’s wishes are about disclosure. It is also important to recognise that even if an individual wishes for their autism to remain confidential, if they have disclosed they are autistic on any employer form or paperwork or to someone in their capacity as a manager, then the employer’s organisation will likely be taken to know about disability and therefore have a duty to make reasonable adjustments and avoid discrimination arising from disability.