A recent study carried out by The Sutton Trust found that a quarter of professionals reported being mocked for their accents in work situations and that 23% are self-conscious and anxious about being victim to accent bias in the workplace. In addition to this, 21% of senior managers also reported being anxious that their accent might affect their chance of success in the workplace.
While mocking accents might first appear to be a bit of harmless ‘banter’ between colleagues, employers need to be aware that this could pave the way for a number of legal issues. An employee who has been on the receiving end of the ‘accent mocking or bias,’ might submit a grievance which the business will need to investigate. It could also lead to expensive claims for harassment or discrimination (if the accent is from another country), and potentially constructive dismissal claims if the employee considers that the employment relationship has broken down irretrievably and resigns as a result.
Employers should ensure that staff are appropriately trained about harassment and bullying at work and are made aware of what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable. The Sutton Trust study also recommends that steps to tackle accent bias in the workplace are given the same weight and consideration as perhaps more ‘obvious’ types of discrimination, such as sexism or racism.
If you would like any more information please contact the Employment Team.