Trade unions agree best way forward to support neurodivergent people in the workplace




Leading trade union activists have agreed urgent actions to better represent neurodivergent people in the workforce.

Neurodivergence is the term given to someone who learns and/or behaves differently from what is considered ‘typical'. Over the years, it has grown to encompass a wide range of people including those with autism, ADHD and dyslexia.

The needs of this group have, traditionally, been underrepresented by trade unions however there is a desire to introduce lasting measures to ensure the interests of neurodivergent people are better reflected in employer practices and work cultures, as well as explore ways they can better engage in union activity.

The subject was recently discussed during an online event, entitled: Building a network to transform unions to represent the neurodivergent workforce (TURN), hosted by academics at Heriot-Watt University.  

More than 70 representatives from trade unions, including The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), as well as human resource practitioners and neurodivergent workers, shared their experiences of organising across industries such as rail and education to improve how neurodivergent people are represented in diverse range of workplaces. Delegates heard of the daily struggles faced in navigating education and employment, and how present trade union structures can prevent disabled people from engaging in union activities.

Dr James Richards, Associate Professor in Human Resource Management and event organiser, said: “This is the first event of its kind in the UK.

“We heard the importance of inclusive language and the long term neglect of neurodivergent women's experiences in the workplace. We look forward to carrying on this work and the creation of a UK wide trade union neurodiversity network.”

The General Secretary of the UCU Dr Jo Grady joined leading academics, and trade union activists to identify priorities for urgent action to improve how trade unions can support their membership.

Further meetings and workshops are planned, including how employers and human resource practitioners can work with unions to deliver the objectives of TURN. Interested parties can contact Dr James Richards at Heriot-Watt University for more information.


Craig McManamon

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