The Employment Process

Recruiting autistic people

Like everyone else, autistic people are subject to the effects of the job market and the economy, but research shows that they are likely to suffer unemployment at a higher rate than non-autistic people. This imbalance in employment rate could be due to a general lack of knowledge about autism in the wider community and the way that employment recruitment is carried out today.

As a result of the higher rate of unemployment amongst autistic people, it is likely that they will have more periods in further and higher education and a more varied career path than those who are not autistic. This varied career path can include, periods of self-employment, periods of volunteering, jobs at a lower rate of pay than previous posts, jobs and roles that are different in nature from those the person would usually do (e.g. administrative work and gardening), part-time working and periods of unemployment.

Maintenance of employment

The maintenance of an employment is in the interest of all concerned in the employment situation. It is therefore important to give thought to ways of rooting out any problems that may arise in the workplace.

For these purposes, the initial phase of employment is extremely important. During the first few weeks and months the new employee is getting used to the physical, social and cognitive environments in the workplace and their colleagues are getting used to him/her. It makes sense therefore to assign an empathetic mentor to the employee and for them to review progress regularly in these first few months. These reviews should be frequent for the first month, and reduce to less frequent reviews in following months, as appropriate. This must be tailored to each individual and to the particular employment situation.

It is important then for the mentor/reviewer to get to know how the new employee is coping with the work in terms of the sensory, social and cognitive elements of the job and the workplace. It is important that the employee sees that any issues which s/he raises are listened to and acted on, or that a clear explanation is given of why resolution of the issue does not require further action.

The Autism and Employment Network is currently working on a resource outlining some of the common issues to consider during the initial phase of employment, which will be available later in 2016. If you are interested in knowing more about this, or contributing to it, please contact us.

Career development and promotion

Since it is in the interest of a company to have a working environment that promotes the well-being of its staff, and since promotion and career development are important to all employees, careful thought should be given to the way an autistic employee is likely to progress within the company. This should be done soon after the initial settling-in period has been completed.

It is important that time is taken to do this, because the autistic employee may not be aware of the need to plan ahead and the company may be losing out on skills that the employee can bring to roles within the business.

In any such assessment, regard should be had to:

  • What functions need to be carried out for the future success of the company and what roles these functions can be assigned to (e.g. could the person who delivers goods also do the ordering of them – might it make more sense for the same person to do this ?)
  • What functions the (autistic) employee is good at and what functions s/he enjoys fulfilling within the company (e.g. if someone is good at counting and arranging stock, might s/he also be good at creating spreadsheets to track company resources)
  • Whether the autistic employee is likely to face particular challenges in fulfilling a future role and in accessing training which would allow him/her to overcome such challenges
  • How to keep the (autistic) employee engaged with career development and promotion plans (it might be useful, for example, to make it a formal part of a regular review after the initial settling in period).


There are many transitions involved in the employment process – the big and obvious ones like starting a first job and moving between jobs, and also smaller ones like moving from task to task during the working day. It is important to remember that all transitions have the potential to present challenges to people on the autism spectrum, and that what changes are manageable and what support is needed with change will differ from person to person.

Lots of work is being done on supporting autistic people with transitions in Scotland. You can find more information about some of this work in the drop down box below.

In the other drop down box you will find some examples of transitions related to employment, and some points to think about.

At the Autism Network Scotland Employment Network event in October 2015, Lynsey Stewart presented on transitions and employment. You can have a look at the presentation by clicking here.

Further Information and Support

If you would like more information about any of the above, or would like to know more about what support is available to you and your employees, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss this with you.

You can also visit our Useful Links and Documents page to find further information about autism and employment.

Autism and Employment Network

Autism Network Scotland facilitates the Autism and Employment Network which aims to provide a forum for sharing information and good practice, highlight common challenges and promote the benefits autistic people can bring to the workplace.

The Employment Network meets quarterly in Glasgow and is currently chaired by Richard Ibbotson (Director, Richmond Fellowship Scotland) and includes representatives from National Autistic Society, Scottish Autism, IntoWork,IWORK4ME, Speaking Literally, Values Into Action Scotland, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Union of Supported Employment, College Development Network,Glasgow and Edinburgh One Stop Shops and others.

If an organisation wishes to be involved in the Employment Network please contact Annie Watson at Autism Network Scotland via our contact page.