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The Benefits of Recruiting and Retaining Employees with Autism

Autism is gaining attention from both sides of the HR office. Benefit teams are adding autism coverage to employee insurance packages while recruiters investigate whether people with autism might have the best skills to fill certain jobs.

Also, to consider: Within the next 10 years, 500,000 teens with autism will become adults. This is in addition to the estimated 1.5 million adults with autism who already live throughout the United States—many of whom are unemployed or underemployed.

In response, some brands are already taking charge. This past April, Microsoft announced a pilot program which would hire people with autism for high-concentration, detail-oriented jobs at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. One Microsoft leader explained how the initiative would add value to the company:

“People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft. Some have amazing ability to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code.”

Meanwhile, the ranks of companies voluntarily offering behavioral therapy coverage for autism continues to grow. When JPMorgan, for example, announced it would be adding autism coverage last year, here’s what Bernadette Ulissi Branosky, the company’s head of benefits, had to say:

“Adding this type of benefit has been the biggest request we’ve heard from employees in recent years, and the outpouring of gratitude has been overwhelming.”

Why Your Company Should Consider Autism Benefits

  • Minimize work disruptions: One study found that parents of children with a disability lose around five hours of work weekly, totaling approximately 250 hours per year, averaging $3,000–5,000 per person in lost business productivity.
  • Lower voluntary quits: Treatments and services require massive amounts of parental time and may force a parent to leave the workforce.
  • Lower employee stress, distractions: According to a study from Washington State University, nearly 60% of families with children with autism suffered financial problems within the past year. One quarter of the parents had taken a leave of absence and nearly as many had turned down a promotion to care for their child.
  • Retain talent: Employees have options and can move to an employer offering state-regulated care (mandated in 42 states, and counting) or move to one of the many self-insured employers who now offer this benefit.
  • Public cost savings: Long-term benefits to the public good include savings for health and human services.

Implementing Autism Benefits: We Can Help

If you believe this benefit would add value for your workforce, Life Meets Work can help by coordinating surveys or focus groups, compiling competitive overviews, and establishing a business case for presentation to leadership.

We can also help you establish or promote other autism supports:

  • Create an autism support advisory council
  • Create family employee resource groups
  • Strengthen workplace flexibility practices
  • Conduct manager awareness training
  • Promote existing benefits such as EAP, FSA, and HSA options to help employees understand how they can leverage these options

Contact Teresa Hopke, senior vice president for Life Meets Work, to get started.