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Changing an employment contract

With many employers looking at changing contracts as a way of avoiding redundancies, we ask Acas advisers Mark Makin and Helen Robinson how to do it well. We explore:


-         The best way to change employment contracts

-         Why consulting staff matters

-         How to do this well remotely

-         What your rights are as an employee


Episode Resources


https://www.acas.org.uk/changing-an-employment-contract


Transcript


Sarah Guthrie

Welcome to the Acas Podcast. We're talking today about changing an employment contract with Acas advisors, Helen Robinson and Mark Makin, and I'm Sarah Guthrie. This is topical at the moment because lots of employers are looking at changing contracts as an alternative to making people redundant. So employers are asking, how can we do that? And members of staff might be asking us, can my employer do this? So Helen, let's start off with employers. What's the best way of going about changing an employment contract?


Helen Robinson

There's a number of different ways that an employer can can consider changing somebody's contract or varying the terms and conditions. But I think the best way from an Acas perspective would be where possible to do so by agreement. If an employer speaks to a member of staff, and they are able to get their agreement to make a change to their terms and conditions, then ultimately that is going to be the best way for conducive working relationship moving forward.


Mark Makin

To echo what Helen said there, taking the workforce with you - informing, explaining consulting, discussing, providing feedback - that sets the tone for the relationship once the change comes into effect, because the trust and the goodwill will need to be there to take the organisation forward afterwards. And if we make changes without agreements, there's a big possibility that that trust and goodwill won't be there, which is going to create problems with itself.


Helen  

Building on that, I mean, what some employers are choosing to do is to see whether they can make these changes on a temporary basis because staff might be more willing or accepting to the changes there. And I've also spoken to an employer recently who has offered an incentives so the change that they were looking at making was a 10% pay cut and that was across the board 10% pay cut for all staff. That was a measure to look at avoiding redundancy. And what the employer said almost as an incentive was that if this didn't work, and if actually they did need to make any redundancies within the next 12 months, their redundancy pay and their notice pay would be calculated at their original wage so that the wage that was slightly higher, and so that that was something that went some way for for stuff agreeing to that change. 


Sarah  

Yeah, I can see why that would really help because we've heard stories of people who have agreed to a temporary pay cap with a perception that then they won't be made redundant and get made redundant and then also have their redundancies as calculated on their most recent pay, which is half of what they were being paid. So I guess it, it sounds like thinking through in detail how your staff will respond to the changes you're proposing both in the short term and the long term is really important here. Some people listening to this podcast might be thinking, Well, can employers change a contract? What are my rights? I wondered if you could give us an insight into that.


Helen  

If a member of staff agrees to a change, then absolutely a change can be made to that contract, whether it's on a temporary or a permanent basis. I think it's very, very important when we're looking at agreements and agreeing to a change that an employer is very open and honest about what this change is going to be. How long is it going to last for? Is it going to be permanent? Because employees need to have that information so that they can make an informed decision about whether they are happy to agree. But I also think it's equally if not more important for employers to be open about the reason behind the change. Because if they approach their staff and they speak about Okay - we will use the 10% pay cut as an example - we're looking at giving you a 10% pay cut, if that's all the information that staff have, then it's highly unlikely that they're going to be happy about that or agreed to it. Whereas if an employer approaches staff and says, Okay, look, we're looking at a 10% pay cut and the reasons are because x y z, people still may or may not be happy about it, but they might be more likely to respond to that say, Okay, yeah, I can understand the reasons why. And yes, I will accept that change.


Sarah  

So keeping very clear communication around the reason why and also how long it's likely to be for and what the long term consequences of that might be. And, Mark, what have you seen from employers about good practice in this area?


Mark  

I think it is the communication as early as possible, as open and transparent as possible. And it's two way. Feedback is given. I think that's something that is often missed in this type of process, where the employer may well go into this type of situation. And they will listen to what people have to say, but they don't provide the feedback. And the feedback may be that was a great idea. But we can't do it, because in some cases, it may be that's a great idea we haven't thought about. Let's discuss in some more detail how we might be able to implement that.


Helen  

Just remember that if you are looking at changing the contract of 20 or more people, there are additional consultation requirements on you, and that you would need to collectively consult. So that would mean either involving trade union representatives if you recognise a trade union, or giving staff the opportunity to appoint employee representatives to almost act as a go between and have conversations with employer and staff themselves.


Sarah  

And that two way communication is very different at the moment for most workplaces than what we would have encountered in the past. Do you have any insight into the challenges of doing this remotely and how people have been overcoming them?


Helen  

I think there are I should say that added challenges. And I think sometimes it's very important for employers to remember that actually, people have got other stuff going on at home. At the moment, yes, they may be working from home. But it might be that they need to schedule a specific time to have important conversations such as these when I don't know if they've not got children at home or the partner is able to look after children at that particular point or other caring responsibilities. So being very, very clear about what's going to be spoken about in a specific meeting or specific virtual meeting. But making sure that that person is in the right frame of mind with minimal distractions to have this conversation because it is an important conversation. Just because people are working remotely or we may have people furlough that we need to speak to, there still needs to be a good level of communication. And what I mean by that is not just an email chain, it's a conversation that would usually be had and it should be a conversation, have it as a conversation, whether it's a video call, whether it's a telephone conversation, not just an email to all and saying this is happening or we're proposing this how. Have a conversation.


Sarah  

So you mentioned Mark that one of the things people often miss is the two way feedback and the need for that. What other mistakes have you seen employers making? And why do you think those mistakes are being made? 


Mark  

There's sometimes an assumption that I've made this decision for the good of the business. So people will automatically accept that it's the right decision. So one of the mistakes that is often made is that that communication, early communication doesn't take place. A decision has already been made, and the employer presents it to the staff almost as a fait accompli, and then is shocked and surprised when they get objections to that, or when people have concerns about it. Or when there is a long list of questions about well, how will this impact me? What does this mean for me? When is it gonna happen? It's it's almost like the employer sometimes jumps the gun and makes the decisions for good reasons, but misses out that communication stage consultation stage.


Sarah  

One thing that's really struck me about doing this process well is that it can take quite a lot of time. And I wonder what you would say to somebody who's thinking, well, that all sounds great, I don't have time to do this.


Mark  

Ultimately, the decision is the employers. But the conversation that I would have with them would be centred around not just the legal risks that they might face if they get this wrong - so there might be breach of contract claims there might be constructive dismissal claims, there might be claims centred around the failure to consult properly if they are in a collective situation. But I'd also talk about some of the less obvious risks, the impact on your workforce, in terms of morale and motivation, the goodwill and that trust and confidence that needs to exist between the employer and the workforce in order for them to function properly.


Sarah  

And so what rights do you have as a member of staff who's going through this process? Perhaps there's been a proposed change, perhaps your employer has or hasn't handled it well? Could you just talk us through what rights you have?


Helen  

It's not an uncommon question from from an employee to say, Okay, well, you're talking about agreement to change, but actually, I don't want to agree to it for whatever reason, and it may be that an employer has done absolutely everything that Mark and I have spoken about. They've consulted they discussed, they've been very open about the the reason behind this change, but the change doesn't suit the member of staff and that is a real life situation. And I think in all circumstances, there's absolutely no obligation on a member of staff to agree to a change. But I do think it's, it's worth being aware that ultimately, if they don't agree to change, there are other options that are available to their employer. For example, if an employer feels that they've got absolutely no option, but to make this change, and their business may go under otherwise, for example, then they do have the option of actually ending the existing contracts by giving notice. And then re-engaging their staff at the end of that notice period on new contracts. What I would say is that it's not a risk free thing for an employer to do. It is still technically a dismissal, you dismissing somebody from their existing role, from their existing contract. And with that in mind, an individual would have the option, if they chose to, to appeal against the decision. They'd also potentially have the option of actually treating that notice as notice of dismissal. And if they felt it was unfair, and they weren't engaged in the new contract, they could potentially look at making a complaint to an employment tribunal around that. So it's not risk free for an employer. It's an option but it's not not a risk free one.


Mark  

As well as the agreement route to vary a contract, and the dismissal and reengagement route to varying contracts, some employers already have flexibility clauses built in to their contracts, which they can invoke. Just a word of caution around flexibility clauses: they do need to be well written, they need to be quite specific, and they need to be reasonable in order them for them to be to stand up and and be operative. And you usually find them around place of work, job role, job function, hours of work. Even if flexibility clauses already exist in a contract before invoking them, I think it's good practice for the employer to speak to staff and explain the circumstances such that they feel they need to invoke the clause. Here's the reason why I feel a need to involve the clause and here's the fine detail about about when and how and what it might mean for you. But then leave the door open for the staff to come back with questions, concerns and objections of other suggestions and ideas. There is another option, unilateral variation, which involves the employer simply making the change and imposing it on employees. But it is fraught with risk and it should be only used as a very, very last resort. It opens the door to legal challenges, it doesn't go down well with the workforce, it will damage goodwill, it will remove any discretionary behaviour that might have been the previous layer, and it just doesn't make for good employment relations as well as the the big legal risks that come along with imposing changes on your workforce.


Helen  

And I think if I if I just add to that, I did some work with an organisation last year - so we're talking pre COVID pre pandemic. And the employer had done exactly this, they had basically informed all of their workforce that as of next week, they were going from a five day to a four day working week, and the pay cut that that attracted as well. Now as Mark said, they lost a lot of goodwill from their staff with that, but what also happened was they lost within about the following month, four members of staff left and went working for another organisation. But what had actually happened, these four particular members of staff were quite specialist, so they had to be replaced. So there's all these then additional costs that the employers got of losing experienced, knowledgeable members of staff, and then having to go through recruitment again to replace them when they were already struggling with money, which is why this this going to four day working week had come in in the first place.


Mark  

And I can see in a situation like that Helen where, if the employer had spoken to people in advance, early, been open about the need to make the change, staff may well have agreed to that once they understood the full picture. 


Helen  

Absolutely, yeah. And I think at the end, the employer in his particular circumstance, had done exactly what we were talking about earlier. He'd fallen into one of those traps where they felt they had consulted because they themselves had thought about all these different measures or different ways and come up with the solution. But they'd done it on their own. They hadn't involve their staff during that thought process.


Sarah  

I'm just thinking of people who are listening to this and thinking my employer is not doing this well. They haven't consulted very well. They haven't listened to that feedback. What would you advise someone in that position about how they can help their whole workplace go through this process more smoothly? 


Helen  

I think in the first instance, and this would be true of any concern that any member of staff has within a workplace, we would be advising them to raise that and to raise that internally. I think it's very important for both employers and members of staff to see whether a situation can be resolved internally before they think. Okay, well, is there any sort of external complaints I could make? And part of the reason for that is something that Mark mentioned earlier on, it's about the fact that hopefully, a working relationship is going to continue. And the more that that can be resolved internally, and informally wherever possible, the more likely it is that that working relationship will continue and will continue to be positive. 


Sarah  

Thanks. That's been really helpful. I wondered if you could leave us with a key insight that you've had to during your work on this topic. 


Helen  

The key thing - and Mark and I have referenced this throughout our conversation today - is to communicate and to communicate as early as possible.


Mark  

And to keep communicating. I've seen situations, certainly in collective situations where there are laid down consultation periods that the employer must observe. But I've seen situations where we get to the end of that 30 days or 45 days, depending on the numbers, and the employer decides that's it job done, when it would have made so much more difference if they just kept that talk in that communication going for a few more days, because they were making progress. Things were developing yet, they'd come to the end of the statutory consultation period, and they felt that's it. That's the green light to move ahead now. So don't be bound by any limits. If things are moving ahead. If progress is being made, keep talking. 


Helen  

Absolutely. Yeah. 


Sarah  

It's a great thing to remember for all workplace relationships, not just varying a contract, changing your contract. And so thanks very much for your insight today.


Helen  

Thank you. 


Mark  

Okay.


Sarah  

You've been listening to the Acas podcast. You can find full details about what you need to know about changing an employment contract on our website at www.acas.org.uk Thanks for listening. 

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11/3/2020

Thinking differently about neurodiversity

Whether or not you’re up to date with the language aroundneurodiversity, ADHD, autism, dyslexia and other terminology, most workplaces include people who think differently, and who might be part of a neurominority. To help us demystify neurodiversity and get proactive, we’re joined by Dr Nancy Doyle, CEO and founder of Genius Within, Adrian Ward, Head of Disability Partnerships at the Business Disability Forum and Erin Fulton-McAlister, Acas workplace adviser. We look at:What neurodiversity isWhy we need to pay attention to itCreating a workplace that celebrates and capitalises on neurodiversityEpisode resourcesAcas neurodiversity guidanceBDF & Genius Within Commissioning framework and how to commission guideContact an Acas adviserfor a free advisory conversation Related Acas podcast - disabilityOrganisations:AcasBusiness Disability ForumGenius WithinTranscript SarahGuthrieWelcome to the Acas Podcast. I'm Sarah Guthrie and today we're focusing on neurodiversity. What is it, why it matters in the workplace, and how workplaces can support neurodiversity in meaningful and practical ways. I'm joined by Dr. Nancy Doyle, Chief Exec and founder of Genius Within, which provides evidence-based neurodiversity inclusion, Adrian Ward, head of disability partnerships at the Business Disability Forum, which brings together business government and disabled people to create a disability smart world and Erin Fulton-McAlister, workplace advisor at Acas. Thanks for joining me today.Adrian Ward, Erin Fulton-McAlister and Dr NancyDoyleNo problem.SarahSo there's lots of different language around neurodiversity and the language shifts a lot, which we've all discussed actually in the past. And I, I wondered if we could start with that in mind. Very simply, what is it that we're talking about when we use words like neurodiversity? Nancy, do you want to kick us off?NancyI do. Yeah. Thank you. So I think, broadly speaking, the word neurodiversity relates to the idea that we are all diverse, that there is cognitive diversity in the strengths and weaknesses of the human species. Some of us are good at most things. Some of us are good at specialist things to the exclusion of other things. And we have this kind of range of what's possible in our human thinking and skill and ability profile. And sometimes the word neurodiversity gets used as a proxy for a handful of conditions that are often known by other titles as well, such as neurodevelopmental disorders, hidden disabilities, specific learning disabilities. My working title for those at the moment is neurominorities, because they are less likely than being a neurotypical. So if you are a neurotypical, it means that broadly speaking, you're competent in all areas of thinking, you know, you're kind of average in all areas of thinking, or maybe you're above average. If you are in a neurominority, it means you have some specialist thinking skills and some specific difficulties. And that includes ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia. And those are the main inclusions. We sometimes also include tic disorders such as Tourette's, we sometimes also include mental health and chronic neurological conditions. Because like the others, what happens when you have those conditions, is you end up with a big difference between your skills and your weaknesses. So because of the weaknesses, neurominorities are typically covered by Equality Act protection and disability legislation worldwide. But it's important to remember that those conditions come with strengths as well.SarahThanks, Nancy. That's a really kind of holistic introduction. What struck me when you were talking is that this is an umbrella term, it is in itself diverse. And I wondered, how does that diversity of the difference between ADHD and dyslexia affect how people identify with and see this as something that they need to think about?NancySo concepts like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are very much diagnoses of exclusion. They're things that we decide people have when we've exhausted all possible other explanations for difficulties in scale or behavior. And actually, the science of those categories is moving on incredibly quickly at the moment. And there are some evidence from neuroimaging studies, that actually that the kind of brain differences are not that great, and that those conditions have more in common than they do have separate and actually what we currently call a diagnosis of dyspraxia or dyslexia might really be a symptom cluster. And, and from my own professional practice working with thousands of neurominorities over the last few decades, I would say that people come to the workplace with very similar problems. So 92% of my clients, no matter which label or brand they are associated with, 92% of them struggle with memory and concentration. 82% struggle with organisation, 78% with time and 67% with communication skills, and I've run this study over thousands of thousands of participants, and it's always about those numbers. So I think from a business perspective, what's more useful, rather than trying to think, "Autistic people will need this" or "Dyslexic people will need that" or, you know, or even to think that an autistic person doesn't have dyslexic symptoms or that an ADHD person isn't also slightly dyspraxic. So instead of getting hung up over labels, what's more important is just to say, "How can I support you to work at your best? What are the things that you're doing really well? What are the things that you're struggling with? What kind of reasonable adjustments what we might be put in, to scaffold you and augment you and to enable you to really thrive in the workplace?" And we can ask that question without detailed descriptions of conditions, and what may or may not be happening in the brain.AdrianYeah, I mean, just to jump on the back of what Nancy said there in complete agreement. And it's a lot of the work we do, with the organisations that we work with, is actually trying to change that culture of either trying to get a diagnosis or trying to pigeonhole or label people into either particular roles or particular solutions for those individuals. And, and actually encouraging them to think more about barriers that they might be encountering, how to remove those barriers, the support that an individual might require, etc etc. So really flipping the thought process from not trying to label and pigeonhole to actually just ask what does an individual need to be able to flourish in the role that they're in?ErinYeah, I completely agree. And I think that, from an Acas point of view, a lot of what we're going to be talking about is really just good management. And it's about supporting people as individuals, rather than because they have a label.NancyAnd there is a tricky balance in this because, you know, when we go a little bit wide of "This affects everybody, everybody is neuro diverse neuro diversity of everybody. It's about asking all individuals and good management," which I 100% endorse. And I think people could get very tied up worrying about whether they're doing the right thing or not. And actually, if they were just doing good management, it would probably be okay. But what we do have to remember with neurodiversity and neurominorities, is that a lot of the time, these are disabling conditions. And somebody said to me, once, "Well, we all have difficulty concentrating sometimes." And I said, "What you've just said, to me, as a woman with ADHD, is the equivalent of me saying to you, as a woman using a wheelchair, we all have trouble walking sometimes." There are statistically significant differences in people's skill levels. That means the things that we do as managers - our legal obligations - they're not nice to have, they are good management, but they are also legal obligations. And when we don't do them, we are not creating the level playing field that we want to create for all our employees. So they're not preferences, their requirements. And the kind of things that I would draw attention to are things like, you know, allowing people to not abide by a hot desking policy, if you are very easily distracted, or you know, have that kind of high sensory awareness that comes with autism, you might find there's a certain point in the office where it's quiet enough for you to focus and concentrate. And you might simply be unable to do that, unless you're at that point in the office. So an organization might allow you to choose your desks, they might allow you to work from home more frequently, they might allow you to book out a meeting room, if you had to do a report that you were really concentrating on or wear earphones to cut out background noise. So there's, there's lots of things people can do. And they might look like preferences. But it's the difference between functioning and not functioning, as opposed to being a little bit annoyed and being a little bit, you know, okay.SarahSo there's a very clear difference in severity, almost?NancyYeah, yeah. Yeah, people aren't choosing to stop concentrating, people aren't choosingto take longer over typo checking and writing and reading through edits, they're not doing that deliberately. It's not because they're...they haven't got a moral character deficit, it's not that they need to try harder or shape up or put a bit more effort in, it's that the parts of the brain do those particular functions aren't as well connected or don't work as well, or are too busy processing a whole load of other information that's coming in from the rest of the environment. So it's really important that people know that there are observable, measurable, definite brain differences. That means certain jobs are easy, and certain jobs are hard. And when we assign words like "prefer" or "try" or you know, "work a bit harder" around the things that people are deficient in, you know, it's like telling somebody who's deaf to listen harder.SarahAnd this might be quite an obvious question, because I feel like you're all bringing up elements of it anyway. But I wondered, Adrian, when you're talking to businesses about this topic, what do you say when they ask you, "Well, why do we need to focus on this?"AdrianYeah, and it does definitely come up as a as a question. It's difficult. In this world, when you work in this world, it becomes very glib just to come back with a, "Well, why wouldn't you?" kind of respond to that. I know that's not necessarily always helpful to get the right engagement. But one of the things I always say to an organization, you know, if you're truly committed to inclusion, you should be looking at how you attract, recruit, retain, and develop neurodiverse talent within your organization. So my biggest sort of push back and biggest sort of line I'll take with an organization is about tapping into the widest pool of talent you possibly can do. And if people need more information around that, and you know, I talk to people about actually, how health it is for an organization to have a workforce that has a real diverse range of thinking. So where people do think differently to others within the organization, where creative thinking is really encouraged and fostered and allowed to flourish within an organization, how some people are very solution focused and great problem solvers. Again, why wouldn't you want people with those sorts of skills within your organization, people that can massively grasp complex concepts very quickly? Again, why would you not want people with those sorts of skills within your organization. So it's trying to help organizations just think, wider than perhaps some of the stereotypes, some of the myths, some of those sort of .pigeon holed views.ErinThe other thing to bear in mind here is that the law says you have to. Being neurodivergent will usually amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. And this means that organizations have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace, and to the individual's role that will remove or minimize any disadvantage to that individual. So, yes, it is important from a legal point of view. And there are really potentially huge consequences if you ignore that point of view. But it's not only as Adrian's already said that there's a threat if you don't do it. There are huge advantages to your organization's if you do do it.SarahSo it's good for your business for your organization, and there's a legal obligation. How do you do that, then? What do you think are the main barriers for organizations? And how can we overcome them to create a workplace, which does help people thrive to their fullest potential?NancyI think that the majority of workplaces are reluctant to be flexible and change. And we've got to get a bit more creative about how we organize work. So you know, most office spaces, for example, are organized around the idea that clocks needed to be adjacent to paper ledgers. Because that's when they were invented in the sort of 1800s. And, actually, that's not really true in a remote working world. And we all know that now, because we've all just lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, or are still living through should I say., So there's a whole bunch of norms that we have assumed are reasonable. And so because we've designed our workplaces around those norms, that's where we're creating disability. We've assumed that all humans, in order to have value, must be able to spell and read efficiently, must be able to operate fine motor control devices, must be able to sit still and concentrate for hours at a time, and must be able to think well in busy, loud environments. And when you think about human evolution, and those particular characteristics of human behavior, they're actually not very typical at all. It's a bit weird! And as our workplaces continue to evolve and progress into the future of work, what we need to do is start designing work around the skills that we need, rather than the things that we're used to because we've always done them that way. So we can start with this idea of changing our systems and being systemically inclusive, and then personalized to what an individual needs. But whereas at the moment, what's happening is we don't think that we have to change our environments at all. And we're putting a lot of energy and effort into making an individual able to cope with it, but actually the environment might not be suitable for the workplace at all. I'd like to see in 20 years time whether we still need to sit still to concentrate at all. You know, will people that need to sit still have sedentary dependent concentration disorder instead of people that like to move having ADHD? You know, we could flip all of this on its head. Will people that only like to communicate using literacy rather than video communication be called hyperlexic dependent syndromes, you know? [Laughs] There's lots of ways we could flip this, but it's about I think, just really thinking about the work that you want and the performance that you need, and designing your jobs and environment around the output rather than the inputAdrianFor us and how we work organizations, we look across that kind of complete employee journey or life cycle and talk with organizations about whole range of things,but things like from the attraction candidates, making sure that recruitment processes are barrier free and as inclusive as possible. And then we will work with organizations around what are they doing that actually retains that talent once you've recruited them? So have you got that onboarding process right? Is it easy to get adjustments, and Nancy touched on the built environment. And one of my sort of big bugbears is around progression and development. I've certainly seen a tendency of actually the focus being on attracting candidates, getting candidates into roles, but then not necessarily really thinking about actually how they are developed and progress within that organization. So there's a whole range of areas that an organization should be thinking. But if they think about that employee lifecycle, from the point that they're attracted to make an application all the way through to how they can then flourish and progress within that organization, they're areas that we'd really encourage organizations to focus on.ErinAn example that I've come across is an organization who had an applicant who declared that they were autistic and requested that the panel avoid hypothetical questions. Now, I know that's one of the very common ones. But this organization decided that they would not do it for just that individual, they would do it for everybody in that recruitment round. And they, they did things like give all of the candidates the questions that they were going to ask 20 minutes before the interview itself, to give them an opportunity to think about their best examples, not just the first thing that comes to their head. They did an exercise in which they gave somebody a scenario that related to the job that they would be doing and asked them about that situation, and whether it was something that experienced before - which I realise sounds hypothetical, but in the situation wasn't. And what they found was that that recruitment process worked significantly better at getting good people in than their previous one had done. And actually, they've adopted that for all recruitment going forward across the entire organization.NancyJust wanted to come in on the point of kind of how do you know what you should be doing and trying this and asking people what they need, and having lists of things that you can try. And, and I see, you know, this is a big ongoing learning, and the big grey area in this is what is a reasonable adjustment? So we know that there are lots of things that you can do as adjustments, and not all of them will be reasonable for your organization to put in and where is that boundary of reasonable? And one of the things that I'm seeing a lot of at the moment, which I find really concerning, is where people are going for that advice. I worked with an assistive technology expert Neil Milliken and the Business Disability Forum to write a commissioning framework for commissioning neuro diversity inclusion services. Because it's a bit of a minefield! Do you need a psychologist, a mental health nurse, a professional coach, a teacher and educator, you know who's got the professional expertise in this field? It's really difficult. So we put together a commissioning framework, which kind of enables you to go through the main issues of risk, safeguarding, insurance, training, credibility, and work out whether - for the size of the project you've got or the you know, the need that you have in your organization - whether you're commissioning the right people. It's a really helpful resource. The BDF and Acas both provide excellent resources in this respect. It's about going for advice to people that can give you credible advice based on a wide range of experience and professional training, as opposed to their own anecdotal case study of one.SarahThank you, Nancy. And we will put a link to that in the episode notes for this episode. I think it's available for free for two weeks. So if you're listening to this, grab it while it's available. We've been talking a lot about what we can do now. But I'm very curious to know what you think we should be doing in the future. Where would you love to see us, the workplace, the future of the workplace move on this topic?NancySo I think where we're headed is universal design, systemic inclusion, I think we're still stuck in compliance based inclusion. So we're waiting for people to fail and then we're buffering around them. We've got quite a lot of token inclusion where we're bringing in groups of people that have specific conditions for specific skills, like autistic coders, which is sadly lacking ntersectional wisdom and tends to kind of repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat the same type of person. It's not really where we should be headed. The idea of systemic inclusion, where it's just the way things are done around here. So all of the things that my two colleagues on this call have said about kind of reviewing your policies, reviewing your structures, you know, really thinking about the the eventual eventual design, where we need to be headed is where this isn't a thing anymore. Where we don't have a diversity and inclusion team where, where disability support is part of the typical HR functionality. The kind of things you need, you can order from a stationary order, or are built into the training development program. And if you think about the prevalence, one of the things we've done looking at our cohorts over the last decade is notice that a sizeable proportion of our clients come to us for help when they're promoted. So it's on promotion, when all of a sudden their job role changes a little bit, or they have to do slightly different things, that's when they need adjustments and support. So rather than wait for people to fail, why don't we just say, "Okay, so as part of our new manager onboarding, we know that for about 15 to 20% of people, they're going to need extra support in these areas. So we built this into our manager onboarding, so on as our manager onboarding courses start, here's the specific ones around managing concentration time, here's your additional literacy resources from the assistive technology suite. Off you go."SarahThank you. Adrian.AdrianSo I think there's a, I'm sensing, I think there is a real opportunity to build on some of the momentum that appears to be there at the moment. It's about actually, how do we harness this real thirst for knowledge and information that's there at the moment, and keep that conversation going and evolving as much as we possibly can? And then my final sort of comment is that - perhaps it's more of a question than a comment. But I just wonder whether COVID and the pandemic and how that's changed how we work, whether that could or should create new and better opportunities moving forward.ErinSo I think what I would like to see would be, organizations get to a point where individuals feel confident in asking for support because of what they are seeing, because they believe that the organization really will be flexible and provide the adjustments that they need, without any kind of disadvantage to those individuals. I'd like to see line managers feel confident in providing that support and in having those conversations with members of their team. And not as a one off, but as an ongoing conversation and ongoing support. I would like to see colleagues within those teams get to a point where they feel that seeing their colleagues doing things differently, or perhaps being managed differently, is a sign of good management and a sign that they can ask for support if they need it as well, rather than unfair treatment. And ultimately, I'd like to see that organizations and individuals together will, through doing these sorts of things, reap the benefits of diversity.SarahThank you. That is a brilliant note to end on, which I am reluctant to do, as there's clearly more to discuss here. We've touched on some really big questions about the whole nature of work and how we design it. And that as well as we've been going big, we've also had some really good principles and insights like not getting hung up on labels, rethinking your systems and your policies, redesigning them, getting expert advice, and not relying on stereotypes or lived experience inappropriately. It's been a fascinating podcast. So Adrian, Nancy and Erin, thank you. This has been the Acas Podcast, I've put links to helpful resources on neurodiversity, including the neurodiversity commissioning framework that Nancy mentioned, which is available for free for two weeks. And we've also put some links to advice. If you're looking for bespoke support to help you increase your diversity and inclusion than Acas also offers free chats with advisors. If that's of interest to you, then I've put a link to the number and the contact form in the notes as well. Thanks for listening.