M. Freeth, M. Day, C. Wood, E. Corker, N. Pearson

University of Sheffield, UK


Autistic adults have significantly lower employment rates compared to non-autistic adults in the UK (ONS, 2021). Supporting more autistic people into employment is a major priority of the National Autism Strategy (2021 – 2026). Improvements to hiring processes are necessary to improve the employment chances of autistic people (Davies et al. 2023) Understanding barriers from an employer perspective could help inform interventions to improve hiring rates of autistic employees.


In this cross-sectional study, 1212 employers and employees with recent hiring experience were surveyed. Predictors of willingness and intentions to employ Autistic people were assessed. Perceived barriers were investigated using the COM-B model (Capability, Opportunity, Motivation – Behaviour) and TDF (Theoretical Domains Framework) of behaviour change. Qualitative questions gathered additional perceived barriers, benefits, and suggestions for improvement in hiring practices.


Employers reported high willingness and intentions to hire autistic applicants. This was particularly true for younger employers and men. Previous experience of hiring autistic people was the strongest predictor of willingness to hire. However, perceived barriers existed around psychological capabilities such as autism knowledge and physical opportunities including current hiring practices and resources. Qualitative data highlighted concerns about workplace relationships, productivity, and the need for training and hiring process adjustments. Smaller organisations reported significantly greater barriers across motivation, resources, and inclusive practices.

Implications for policy/practice:

Improving employer knowledge of autism and building more inclusive hiring practices are important targets for intervention. Sharing positive hiring experiences may also facilitate change. Smaller organisations require additional resources to make reasonable adjustments.


Davies, J., Romualdez, A. M., Malyan, D., Heasman, B., Livesey, A., Walker, A., … & Remington, A. (2023). Autistic Adults’ Priorities for Future Autism Employment Research: Perspectives from the United Kingdom. Autism in Adulthood.

ONS (2022). Outcomes for disabled people in the UK 2021 – Office for National Statistics (https://ons.gov.uk). (accessed 29/02/2024).

DHSC & DfE (2021) The national strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021 to 2026 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-strategy-for-autistic-children-young-people-and-adults-2021-to-2026 (accessed 29/02/2024)

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