Reasonable adjustments

Hi All,

We have recently recruited to a post whereby we appointed two of the candidates.  The second best of the interviewees was a fixed term appointment to help us through a current backlog of workload.  Another team member has just handed in their notice and we are going to offer a permanent post to the person who is currently in a fixed term post.

This person identified themselves through their CV as having mild autism.  Since they were appointed to the post, we have found that their ability to undertake some tasks - the post is an assembly post in our factory and their dexterity and ability to manipulate some of our heavier products is not as strong as we would expect.  In terms of other aspects of his performance, he was making some mistakes but we realised that he hadn't understood instructions fully.  Once that was rectified, he has been very consistent.  

So, assuming this person accepts the permanent post, we are considering how we should fairly tackle the performance issue.  This scenario isn't something I have come across yet and I want to get it right.  It has only been a month since he started with us.

My initial thoughts are that we don't know what the reasons are for his lack of ability in the areas identified and we of course don't know that they are related to his autism.  So how should we start the performance conversation with him?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



  • He knows he has autism - I guess?

    Just be honest:- "Look Simon, you've been doing really well. Just a tiny bit of adjustment to your widgets and you;ll be even better. Lets see......."

    He will probably be able to help you help himself.

    Failing that I'm sure there's expert help from the relevant charity.
  • Hi Jo

    You should refer him to an Occupational Health service. Send them his job description, explain the parts of the job that he is struggling with and ask them whether this is likely to be related to his autism, how his autism will affect him in the workplace and what adjustments you should consider to see if they would be reasonable.

    On top of that, as David has already pointed out, their will be a charity for autism and those sorts of charities are usually great sources of information on the condition in general. Very often you will find a section on their websites with information specifically for employers.

  • In reply to Elizabeth:

    Thank you Liz. My main question is when we should start these conversations and I suppose that depends on the quality of the 1:1 conversations between him and his manager. So if we talk with him about his progress and he doesn't himself suggest his disability as being the reason, how should we ask the question of him. I'm conscious not to label him or attribute problems to his disability that may well be unrelated. At one month in, it seems wrong to be making these judgements yet do you think?
  • In reply to Jo:

    I am suggesting you hold back on making any judgments until you become better informed. You don't know whether the mistakes caused by misunderstanding and the problems caused by lack of dexterity have anything to do with his autism. You need to find out. Then you will be in a position to make informed decisions (which is the word I would use rather than "judgments" which has come to have a pejorative connotation.)

    The employee informed you via his cv that he has the condition so it seems to me that he is open to a conversation on the subject. I would simply say to him that you would like to follow up on this by finding out how the autism affects him at work and whether there is anything you could do to help him and that they way you do this at work, where you are not medically qualified, is for him to talk to someone who is. I would explain his rights including that you will be asking only about his condition as it affects his job (as sometimes people think that  they are giving their employer the right to go delving through their whole medical history) and that he can see the report first and you will discuss it with him.

  • In reply to Elizabeth:

    Sound advice from Elizabeth. As long as you approach your employee in a supportive manner with a view to helping him do his job better it should be a posive step.