Telling an employer that you are autistic: disclosing

You are not required to tell anyone about any disability, health problem, or difference

Because autism is an “invisible” condition (no one can easily know you’re autistic by looking at you, unlike some physical disabilities) you may only be able to access some of the potential benefits of disclosing by making the conscious decision to do so.

Why disclose

The main reason for telling an employer is to allow them to make changes to meet your needs

Unless the employer is aware of your autism, disability or other issue, they will not be required to make adjustments for you. If you do disclose, they are obliged to accommodate reasonable adjustments and you may be protected by discrimination laws. You may also find it easier to be yourself, as you won’t be trying to mask your condition.

But if you aren’t looking for your employer to do anything differently as a result of your disclosure, you may choose to withhold the information. For some people this is preferable, as they don’t like talking about their autism.

When to disclose

If you choose to disclose, you will have to decide when to do so: you can tell them at any point during the recruitment process, or once you have started work

If you do wish to tell your employer or manager about your autism, the options for when to tell them include:

  • In your application:
    This will give an employer plenty of time to find out about autism and consider how an autistic person could bring benefits to the workplace. You can explain how the job you have applied for will suit your skills, why you feel that autism will not affect your ability to do the job. It may allow them to think in advance about tailoring both the recruitment process and the job to suit your needs and make appropriate adjustments. If the employer talks about being inclusive in the advert and on their company website, or if you know other autistic employees who are getting on well in that company it might give you more confidence to disclose early in the process. It will also give the employer the opportunity to think about the need to apply for Access to Work funding to support you in your work.

BUT not everyone understands autism or is prepared to take the time to adjust what they normally do. Therefore unfortunately your disclosure may lead an employer to reject your application.

  • In advance of an interview or assessment:
    This will allow the opportunity to request adjustments and for the employer to put these in place. Adjustments may include:

    • Visiting the venue in advance of the interview
    • Requesting the interview questions prior to the interview and responding in writing
    • Bringing someone to support you
    • Exploring the possibility of an alternative to an interview, such as a work trial

BUT the employer may not be open minded about autism in the workplace and reject your application.

  • During the interview:
    This will provide the opportunity to explain the impact of autism in person, describe your strengths and talk about adjustments that may be needed as part of the role.

BUT the employer may feel disconcerted by the unexpected information and will not have had time to prepare themselves.

All the above opportunities to disclose are during the recruitment and selection process. It may be important to you that your employer is aware of your autism PRIOR to offering you a role, in which case you will need to select the option above that you are most comfortable with.

Bear in mind that many employers will look at your social communication feeds such as Linked in, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram during the recruitment process, so if you say you are autistic on there, you should declare it in the application

You can also disclose after the interview or assessment:

  • After receiving the job offer:
    This allows you to discuss adjustments that may be needed and gives the employer time to put these in place.

BUT the employer may feel that you have not been honest with them during recruitment which may reduce their confidence in you.

  • After starting in your new job:
    This will allow you to prove your value to the employer prior to asking for any adjustments.

BUT it may take some time before adjustments are in place and the employer may be aggrieved that you did not disclose earlier.

  • When issues arise:
    If no concerns or issues arise during your employment and you do not require adjustments which are specific to you, then there will be no need to disclose. For example, if noise is disturbing you, you could ask to wear ear defenders without telling your manager about your autism. However, if you are struggling to learn a new task because instructions are only given verbally, and your preferred learning method is for someone to show you what is needed, or to have the steps written down, disclosure may help the employer to understand the need to these adjustments.

BUT if a performance or other type of issue has been raised it may be difficult to re-establish your credibility.