Beach Café owner Neal Bardsley with his employee Francis Johnson. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Steady steps on the job ladder for Francis


Every morning the tables and chairs at the Beach Café in Tahunanui are studiously arranged by Francis Johnson.

Every afternoon he puts them away.

For Francis, who is on the autism spectrum, just being there is a great step forward.

“I used to be scared of doing some things but I am getting more confident,” he says. “I can help my mum out at home more now.”

Francis has come a long way. Being on the spectrum means that he faces different challenges to others wanting work. So, having the right support to help build confidence, and caring employers who know how to build skills, is essential.

Since 2015, Francis had been meeting regularly with Work and Income to talk about steps he could take to help him on his journey.

Having heard about a part-time job at the café and thinking that this would be a good fit for him, Karen took Francis out to meet Neal and Dianne Bardsley at the café.

Francis was very excited about the part-time job on offer.

Neal looked carefully into what was needed to be able to employ Francis and to make it work for both of them.

“We take our social responsibility seriously and always try to include people with a disability on our staff.

“And, before I employ anyone, I do want to make sure that I understand the detail and what needs to be put in place to make the job a success,” he says.

When Francis got the job, Karen linked him to Workbridge who, with the help of a Transition to Work Grant, helped him shop for the essentials he needed to start work.

A Flexi-Wage Subsidy from Work and Income helped the business set aside extra time to give Francis the training needed and Neal set out clear job instructions in pictorial form, which made it easier for Francis to understand.

With well-defined tasks, he has gone from strength to strength and now plays an important part of the team – going to the café’s staff meetings and to their social gatherings.

Francis works around 15 hours a week, working a split morning and afternoon shift at the café. He is responsible for putting out all the tables and chairs before the café opens and putting everything away at the end of the day.

According to Neal, he’s doing a great job. “He’s keen, motivated, happy and achieving. Everything he has learned to do, he does well. We want to ensure we don’t put too much pressure on him and it’s great to see him develop,” he says.

Francis has been part of the permanent staff for a year and a half now. He says he has a great boss. “They gave me a lot of time to learn. I like the physical work. It has made me stronger,” Francis says.

Neal recommends any employer to take a similar step to him, but they need to make sure it is the right fit.

“They have to ask themselves the question and whether they are going to put in the effort to make it work.”