I work in the Netherlands as an expat, so my resident permit is related to my work.

I was described by a psychologist to have autism.

Should I declare that to my employer?

I'm afraid that might fire me. (Maybe a stupid idea, but I am thinking about it).

Any advice please?

  • Declare to your employee or employer? – Matthew Gaiser Jan 31 at 21:29
  • @MatthewGaiser employer sorry that was typo. I corrected it. – aufvbomvap Jan 31 at 21:30
  • 3
    Why do you want or feel that you have to declare or disclose this to your employer? I take it you already had the job and then were diagnosed with autism? – DarkCygnus Jan 31 at 21:34
  • If you work in IT that might actually be an advantage. Autists make great testers. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 1 at 10:33
  • If you speak German, this news article from Die Zeit is maybe interesting: google.com/amp/s/www.zeit.de/amp/arbeit/2019-11/… – guest Feb 2 at 0:00

I was described by a psychologist to have autism. Should I declare that to my employer? I'm afraid that might fire me.

You can declare it to your employer if you want to, but what's your end goal for doing this? Do you want extra measures to be taken in any particular situation? If so then sure, declare it and ask, politely. If you're just declaring it for no particular reason though, then I don't see the need.

In any case, incredibly unlikely they would fire you on this front. I'm not aware of the specific legalities in the Netherlands - but I believe in most developed countries firing you for that reason would be very illegal.

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It's highly unlikely that you would be fired for that in the Netherlands. They have very strict employment laws there. Your company would have to go through the courts to do so. And they would have to prove you were underperforming or acted with gross negligence. Neither of which would be applicable in this case.

But what would be the reason for you to tell them? They most likely do not care about your condition. They only care about your performance.

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Before you take an action, you should always evaluate: How does it benefit me, and how can it hurt me?

I can't see how telling them about autism is going to do you any good. The only exception would be if you have problems interacting with other people and get into trouble because of that, where with autism people would just ignore it. So unless you have a good reason, don't tell anything.

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You will not be fired over this. Under Dutch law you have no obligation to tell anyone in the workplace, even if you are seeking specific accommodations. Many Dutch people speak about their afflictions quite openly, specifically because they feel quite protected.

I would advise against keeping the diagnosis private out of fear. If it becomes relevant, share it privately and on a need-to-know basis. The openness will buy you a lot of goodwill. If you're struggling with certain situations and interactions in the workplace, it is important that you schedule a one-on-one to bring those concerns to your manager and just inform them as part of that conversation. Be proactive and don't use it as an excuse when you receive feedback or criticism, that is not appreciated.

Were you recently diagnosed? If so, then this may be a rather turbulent time. I would recommend that you tell your manager, they'll understand that this has an impact on your mental health and self-confidence.

What if you want to keep it private?

Suppose you need some accommodations and want to keep the diagnosis private, then you should ask HR to be referred to an 'arbo-arts' (contracted doctor). You discuss your issues with this doctor, they consult another medical professional. Preferably whomever diagnosed or treated you, or is currently treating you. If that is not possible they will refer you for evaluation by a new doc. In the end, the 'arbo-arts' sends his (very general) recommendations to your HR departement. HR and your manager then work with you to figure out what works within that framework.

When should you be careful?

Though you cannot be fired for having autism, you can be fired* for not performing due to your autism. Suppose you accept a job in a customer-facing role, and have frequent conflicts with your customers because you don't notice when they are getting angry or sad. In that case, the expectation is that will reflect on these interactions and conclude that this is not the right job for you. I you fail to come to that conclusion yourself, then your boss will be forced to fire you eventually. Before that happens, you will typically work together to improve your performance.

*I mean both being fired outright and not having your contract extended. Firing someone is really hard in the Netherlands, but not extending their contract is easy.

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