For employers, creating a more inclusive workplace doesn’t just benefit new hires, as autistic people may already be an unseen part of their workforce.

According to a study by University College London, there could be approximately 750,000 autistic people aged-20 or above who are undiagnosed in England alone.

“For 18 years I was working as an autistic person but didn’t realise it,” says Phil Nicholson, who received his autism diagnosis aged 36, and now supports autistic and neurodivergent people to look for work as part of the Employment Futures team within the North East Autism Society (NEAS).

Phil worked a range of jobs before starting at NEAS, including teaching abroad after finishing university, and had to come up with his own strategies to make employment work for him.

“I did well,” he says, “but I think with the awareness and the hindsight I’ve got now, there were probably more strategies I could have put in place around planning, preparation, reflecting on my own practice, that could have helped me.”

Addressing the barriers autistic people face in the workplace in a series of videos for NEAS, Phil shares his own experiences of work, and covers topics such as how autistic people can struggle in interviews, how disclosure can help both the individual and the employer, and how employers can make their recruitment and working environments more inclusive. 

One of Phil’s key messages is that organisations should try to “be flexible and kind of support everyone.”

It makes it easier to access that support, and if you do that for everyone as much as you can within the organisation and the demands of the business, it’s going to not just help the autistic people, it’ll help all the employees

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be the person coming and saying, ‘I’m autistic, I want this reasonable adjustment,’ it’s just, ‘this is what’s going to help me do my job.’”

Phil says: “There’s no one right answer, but it’s just listening to people and doing what you can to help them thrive in their job.”

See neurodiversity resources for employers

Phil's personal journey to employment

Supporting neurodivergent people into employment

Difficulties in hiring processes