I have ADHD and am being discriminated against in the workplace

I have ADHD and am being discriminated against in the workplace

I am by no means an expert on neurodiversity and I can only draw on my own experience of advising clients how to navigate work related issues which arise by reason of or connected to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 

I have clients come to me to say that they are struggling to get their employer to understand what ADHD is and how reasonable adjustments can be made to support them.  My evidence-based understanding is that individuals that have ADHD may experience poor organisational skills, may be easily distracted or tend to hyper-focus on detail and might be unable to assimilate lots of information in a short space of time. 

It’s specific to individuals and I do not want to generalise. By contrast, they can retain great swathes of information and recall facts easily which makes them very good at aspects of their work. ADHD has been referred to as a curse and a super power. Being neurodiverse has nothing to do with intellectual ability. It may impact some aspects of social function for example interpersonal relationships. The impact of medication and coping mechanisms also has to be taken into account. For sure it’s not easy but there is plenty of evidence that employees with ADHD make great employees and impressive contributions to the workplace. 

What is essential is that they are given the adjustments they need to allow their full and effective participation in the workplace without barriers. Barriers can sometimes be down to the attitudes of organisations, managers and colleagues. 

From what I have seen there are easy mechanisms that can be implemented to support employees with ADHD in the workplace which can range from:

  • Allowing more time to complete tasks;
  • Giving clear and unequivocal instructions;
  • Providing information in a concise way (i.e. bullet points);
  • Allocating one task at a time and setting reasonable deadlines; 
  • Providing reassurance, support and recognition that ADHD is not an issue, not a stumbling block and can be to the advantage of the employer.

I often see issues arise where an employee has been struggling at work and may not have disclosed the fact that they have ADHD to their employer or are in the process of seeking a diagnosis.  It is essential to know that an employer cannot be expected to make reasonable adjustments if they are not aware of an issue. That being said, an insightful employer would recognise signs of distress or performance dips and manage them effectively.  

I see discrimination arising in respect of employees with ADHD when employers implement performance management plans by way of a sanction rather than seeing how performance can be supported. This is a classic section 15 Equality Act 2010 case where an employee is discriminated against because of something arising in consequence of their disability. The ‘something arising’ is the faulty performance precipitated by the ADHD and the employer’s failure to support them adequately. This in turn also leads to a potential failure to make reasonable adjustments claims because the employer, by implementing a performance management plan, is applying a ‘provision criterion or practice’ (PCP) that puts a person with a disability at a substantial disadvantage when compared to those that do not have the disability.  

Despite the increased awareness of neurodiversity, the campaigns and virtue signalling engaged by so many companies, the discrimination that arises as a result of employees that have ADHD/Autism/ASDs is not decreasing. There are simple tools/programmes/mechanisms that can be implemented to support individuals that do not always assimilate information in a ‘standardised’ way. 

I consider it is about ‘thinking outside the box’, embracing those that may be different and using a persons’ unique skill-set to your advantage. With greater automation, AI and technology, it should be simple and easy for an employer to adequately support and embrace employees with neurodiversity and to hone their talents to the advantage of the organisation.  

Our solicitors at didlaw have extensive experience in advising employees that are neurodiverse and understand the unique challenges they face. If you believe you have experienced ADHD discrimination in the workplace, be sure to give us a call. 

This blog was written by Elizabeth McGlone, Partner at didlaw.