Need a formal diagnosis to qualify for adjustments

Whilst you certainly can ask for adjustments to be made you need to be prepared for what might happen if your prospective employer pushes back, asks for further evidence or declines your request. (See also the previous Q&A about providing evidence of your autism.)

As described in further detail here, an employer’s duty to provide reasonable adjustments is triggered when it knows or reasonably ought to know that:

  1. the employee in question is disabled; and
  2. the employee in question is likely to be placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled.

Your employer may decline your request on the basis that they do not consider you to be disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and therefore not entitled to reasonable adjustments.

If you decide to contest your employer’s decision you will need to commence proceedings in the Employment Tribunal to do so ( you may wish to file a formal grievance and try early conciliation through ACAS before doing so.

An Employment Tribunal will then try to determine whether you are disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. Case law suggests that unless the answer to this question is obviously that you do have autism, the tribunal is unlikely to find that your employer should have provided adjustments in the period between your initial request and their determination as to your disability.

Whilst statutory guidance states that a medical diagnosis is not strictly required when proving disability, you should note that expert medical evidence is routinely called for by tribunals when they deal with autism and other mental, behavioural and cognitive conditions.  You may end up, therefore, undergoing an examination and diagnosis in any event.

As we have mentioned above, you can certainly ask for adjustments and you may find that your employer provides them to you without asking for further evidence. You should, however, consider getting examined and diagnosed if your employer decides to push back.

Our section on applying for work has more information on telling an employer that you are autistic.

Employers and work providers also have duties when an applicant or employee discloses that they are autistic, and when recruiting and managing autistic employees.

Our Resources section has more information about services offering legal advice on employment matters.