Neurodiversity - Part 1 of 3

1. Identifying Neurodiversity

What exactly do we mean when we say neurodiversity? What conditions does it include? What are possible indicators?

If you have a colleague who explains they’re neurodivergent (or you suspect may be undiagnosed) you’ll need to know more.

With neurodiversity comes terminology unfamiliar to some. Here are the key terms you may hear and what they mean:

  • Neurodiverse – the concept that humans’ brains work in many different ways and there’s no singular ‘right’ way of thinking, learning, processing information or behaving.
  • Neurodivergent – people who have differences in their neurological development and functioning.
  • Neurotypical – someone who fits the societal ‘norm’ and has typical neurological development and functioning.

Neurodiverse conditions can include autism, ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia (difficulty with reading, maths, and coordinated movements respectively) and many more.

Each condition is different and has different symptoms. Many people remain undiagnosed – it’s estimated that 700,000 people in the UK are autistic but undiagnosed. Knowing the signs of possible neurodivergence is important – watch out for (but not limited to):

  • Physical – sensory differences, repetitive behaviours, pacing, physical tics.
  • Emotional or behavioural – low attention span, intense curiosity, difficulty communicating, sensory sensitivities.
  • At work – rapid speech, impulsive actions, hyper-focus, easily distracted, difficulty dealing with change.

If you’re unsure, always seek expert medical opinion. In our next update, we’ll consider how to approach a conversation with an individual you consider may be neurodiverse and what to do then. We’ve built a ‘Neurodiversity Toolkit’ to help you and your managers support individuals at work – see what’s included.

2. Neurodiversity - Conversations with Confidence

Approaching a conversation with a colleague regarding any medical condition can be challenging – knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it isn’t always easy.

But with the right tools, knowledge and awareness, managers can confidently approach conversations about neurodiversity and provide colleagues with the support they need. Here are some of our tips:

Choose a setting – find a private, neutral space (outside the workplace if needed) free from interruptions and distractions, and clear your diary to make time so you don’t appear rushed. Keep your body language open and non-confrontational – remember that some neurodivergent individuals may find it difficult to read ‘typical’ social cues.


What to say – ensure you’re able to actively listen to what the individual is sharing. Ask open questions to encourage discussion and avoid making assumptions or comparisons with your own experiences (unless you have the same condition, of course). Following a clear agenda for the conversation will help to keep you on track. We have one in our toolkit.

Objectivity – be aware of their feelings and experiences, even if they differ from yours. Avoid your own expectations entering the conversation of how they could be dealing with their neurodiversity.

Support rather than solutions – be knowledgeable about sources of support that are available (EAP, charities etc.) and know who to signpost them to if needed. Encourage individuals to share what might help them with their neurodiversity instead of jumping to solutions that may not be appropriate.

Keep an open dialogue – agree and diary when you’re next going to check in, and agree on what they may want to share with their team about any changes being made. If an individual is off sick, stay in touch and carry out a return-to-work meeting when they return.

Record – keep a written record and notes of conversations (including dates, times and what was discussed). An accurate paper trail is vital if you need to rely on your records in the future.

We have everything your managers need to approach conversations with confidence in our new ‘Neurodiversity Toolkit’ – see what’s included.


£37,000 awarded for menopause compensation

A tribunal has awarded an employee £37,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal and harassment after she was accused of using her menopause symptoms as an “excuse for everything”.


The employee was experiencing serious menopause symptoms resulting in her working from home two days a week. Her symptoms meant she arrived late to work on one occasion and was questioned aggressively by her manager who suggested her menopause symptoms were an “excuse for everything” and referred to her as an “old biddy”. She subsequently raised a grievance and was signed off work. During this time her remote working access was cut off, leading to her resignation.

The tribunal held that the behaviour had violated her dignity and upheld her claims for harassment and unfair dismissal, awarding £37,000 in compensation.

Practical takeaways

Proactive support – supporting employees experiencing menopause symptoms begins with understanding. Everyone is different, so having supportive conversations and securing expert guidance (such as occupational health) means you can provide the employee with the specific support they need.

Raising awareness – it’s currently Menopause Awareness Month so no better opportunity to introduce a menopause policy or shout about the one you’ve got! You can access ours on Intelligent Employment. The more awareness around the topic the easier it is to build a culture of understanding, support those affected, and ensure managers have the confidence to deal with situations appropriately and lawfully.

Training – great policies often fail without training to back them up. Around 77% of businesses still don’t train line managers about menopause. Not only does training raise awareness, but it also shows that you’re serious about support and ensuring your managers are able to give the help where and when it’s needed.

Future guidance – after a series of cases involving the treatment of individuals with menopause symptoms, the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be launching new guidance for employers on supporting employees going through the menopause.

Haven’t yet introduced a menopause policy? We’ve got one ready for you on our Intelligent Employment platform – click here.


Tribunal awards £65,000 for failure to make adjustments for menopause

A tribunal has ordered Direct Line to pay almost £65,000 in compensation after failing to make reasonable adjustments for an employee affected by menopause symptoms. Here’s what you need to know.


The employee’s menopause symptoms meant she began to struggle to meet usual performance standards. She accepted an offer to move to another role (at a lower salary) but again struggled with performance, with ‘confidence issues’ being cited. She was threatened with disciplinary action if her performance didn’t improve.

An occupational health report advised that her symptoms probably amounted to a disability and suggested eight reasonable adjustments to support her. Despite this, her employer issued her with a first-stage warning with a “success plan” and failed to make the adjustments suggested. She resigned and brought a claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments and disability discrimination. The tribunal agreed and awarded £23,000 for injury to feelings, £2,500 for aggravated damages, and over £30,000 for loss of past and future earnings (plus interest).

Practical takeaways

Policy – introducing a menopause policy will help to build a more open culture of understanding to support those affected. It will also help guide situations like this and ensure those involved are clear about their responsibilities.

Training – a great policy often fails without training. Did you know 77% of businesses don’t train their line managers about menopause? Training colleagues helps them to approach conversations with confidence and ensure they are respectful of the law and the individual’s needs.

Understanding – every individual is different. Securing expert support (an occupational health report in this case but other options are available) means you’re equipping yourselves with the tools to deal with the situation appropriately.

Actions – it’s no good having a great policy, delivering training, taking expert views and then ignoring it all. You need to show you’re respectful of your own policies, follow the training you’ve given, embraced expert opinion and then delivered a course of action in line with legal and business requirements.

Advice – early advice means legal and cultural goals can be achieved and avoids ‘unpicking’ legal breaches (if possible).

Haven’t yet introduced a menopause policy? We’ve got one ready for you on our Intelligent Employment platform – click here.

The information above is kindly provided by BMF member, Halborns – Contact details below: