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Employment

Autistic people bring a range of strengths, interests and skills to the workforce but face barriers finding, maintaining and engaging in employment.

Why work matters

Employment is an important part of our lives – it provides financial security, social connection, maintains mental health and wellbeing, and builds our self-esteem.

However, for autistic people, the path to employment can be challenging. In Australia, the unemployment rate for autistic people is 31% – almost six times that of people without disability, and three times the rate of people with disability generally.

Autistic people bring unique strengths, skills and talents to the workforce. As we look to a future that is more complex than ever, the genuine diversity of thinking that autistic people offer can drive innovation and create positive, inclusive change in Australia.

Get an insight into the employment experiences of autistic Australians through Spectrospective: Work, a short film sharing real stories from 20 autistic people from all walks of life, at many stages of their careers.

Employment support for autistic people

There are many services and programs can assist autistic people to find and keep work.

Services funded by the Australian Government to support people with disability access employment in the open labour market include:

  • Disability Employment Services (DES)
    These organisations provide training and recruitment support to people with disability who are looking for work, and also on-the-job support for people who are already employed.
  • JobAccess
    Free and confidential information and advice for people with disability and employers, including a free phone support line.
  • Employment Assistance Fund
    Provides financial support for eligible people with disability to buy work-related modifications and services, such as communication devices.
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme
    Provides individual funding to support NDIS participants to achieve their employment related goals.

Other autism-specific supports and programs

  • Specialisterne Australia
    Specialisterne is an innovative social business organisation originally founded in Denmark in 2004. Specialisterne Australia assists organisations to recruit and support autistic people at work.
  • DXC’s Dandelion program
    The DXC Dandelion Program is an initiative to build valuable information technology skills and careers for autistic people. Combining mentoring, support and training over three years in specially matched ‘pods’ the focus of the program is on developing technical, life and career building skills.
  • Aspect Capable Employment Service
    Aspect offers extensive assistance with recruitment, job seeking, interview support, mentoring and training, both for employers and employees, through its Aspect Capable team.

Every workplace in Australia can be more welcoming of autistic people by making these changes – many are low or no-cost.

As part of our Do One Thing for Autism campaign, Amaze has collaborated with Specialisterne Australia to develop nine simple adjustments employers can make to create more inclusive and autism-friendly workplaces.

Learn how you can make a different at Do One Thing for Autism 

Discrimination is treating someone unfairly because of a personal characteristic. This includes: during the recruitment process, when determining terms and conditions of employment and when identifying employees for promotion or demotion, transfer, training, retrenchment or dismissal.

Discrimination can take the form of:

  • Bullying, harassing or abusing a person
  • Refusing to make reasonable adjustments that are requested to enable a person to access services or activities
  • Rules or policies that negatively affect people who have a particular characteristic
  • Being asked questions that could be discriminatory

In the law, autism is grouped under disability discrimination. In Australia, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because they have, or you think they may have, a disability.

People with disability are protected under three laws:

  • Victorian law – the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 of Victoria
  • Commonwealth law – the Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • For employment cases – the Fair Work Act 2009.

Read more about disability discrimination on the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit website and the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

For more information

For more information on autism and employment – including strategies to navigate the workplace’s hidden codes of behaviour and supports and services in Victoria – contact the Amaze Autism Advisors on 1300 308 699, email info@amaze.org.au or use the webchat on this site.

This service is open from 8am–7pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

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