Barclays' new Glasgow campus to build inclusive workplace for autistic employees

Barclays has unveiled a partnership with an autistic charity as part of a push to develop a more diverse working environment for staff at its new Glasgow campus.

From left: Joanna Panese, Scott Stewart and Charlene Tait. Picture: Contributed

The banking group, which is set to double its headcount in Scotland, has teamed up with Scottish Autism for the two-year project to create an inclusive and accessible environment for autistic employees.

Barclays claims the move will promote a positive organisational culture and help to remove barriers to employment, creating a wider talent pool of prospective candidates.

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The lender’s central Glasgow site is expected to create up to 2,500 jobs.

Joanna Panese, Scottish Autism’s practice development manager, has been appointed lead consultant on the project. She has more than 12 years of experience within the third sector through direct practice, service development and management roles.

The charity, Scotland’s largest provider of autism-specific services, is currently supporting the Barclays project team at the design and development stage of the Glasgow build. This includes advising on practical matters such as the type of flooring and materials that support an inclusive environment.

Autism is estimated to affect 56,000 people in Scotland, or around one in 100 people. It is a lifelong developmental condition that affects the way a person communicates, interacts and processes information.

'Campus design is crucial'

Scott Stewart, head of Barclays Scotland, said: “Our ambition is to become one of the most accessible and inclusive companies in the world, not only because it makes good commercial sense, but because it’s the right thing to do.

“As we double our headcount in Scotland we want to do this in a way that attracts, retains and develops the best talent. The design of the campus is crucial in this respect.

“As an employer, we are committed to working collaboratively to share best practices to remove barriers to employment.

“Our proactive approach towards disability and mental health has had a positive effect on our organisational culture, opened up a wider talent pool and created opportunities for people of all abilities to join us, grow and fulfil their potential.”

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Panese, who will provide advice and support on best practice when creating accessible environments throughout the project, will be working closely with the Autism Focus Group at Barclays to ensure that the voice of autistic employees is heard.

Charlene Tait, deputy chief executive at Scottish Autism, said the partnership aims to create “a welcoming, accessible and inclusive culture for not only autistic employees, but employees from all backgrounds”.

She added: “Led by Joanna and her team, autistic people will be at the very heart of this project. We have developed our training and consultancy service to support other businesses committed to being inclusive employers.

“This new site will not only have a significant economic impact for Scotland, it will also provide an important employment opportunity for people from a diverse background who often face barriers into work, including autistic individuals and those with disabilities.”