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“Accentism” in the workplace

Researchers have found that almost half of UK workers have been singled out or mocked about their accents in work-related social settings and a quarter have been mocked for their accents at work. Those who speak in Received Pronunciation (sometimes known as ‘BBC English’) disproportionately occupy positions of authority. This can lead to unfavourable stereotypes related to intelligence, education, and socio-economic background about those who speak with regional accents.

Accents can be linked to socio-economic status. Recruiting based on candidates’ accents can act as a barrier to professional success for those from poorer backgrounds. One in five people whose parents were from lower socio-economic grade felt their accent would hamper their ability to succeed, compared with one in eight people from better off families.

To help tackle negative stereotypes, employers should:

  • View accent bias as an important workplace inclusion issue, alongside effort to tackle discrimination against other characteristics such as ethnicity and sex;
  • Train recruitment staff to help reduce accent biases;
  • Ensure organisations have a range of accents across their workforce;
  • Tackle bias, prejudice or mockery within work-related social settings;
  • Not expect employees to sound like they are from a certain region, socio-economic background or educational background.