One in five feel they need to change their accent to get ahead

Survey of workers finds stigma still exists around dialect, prompting calls for more to be done to tackle class discrimination

More than half of people in the UK believe there is a stigma in the workplace around regional accents, leading to calls for businesses to do more to tackle class bias.

In a poll of 2,003 people by Equality Group, 55 per cent believed regional accents acted as a barrier to securing graduate corporate jobs, particularly in London.

One in five (19 per cent) survey respondents said they felt they needed to alter the way they speak or their accent or dialect to be successful in their career, while 9 per cent said they felt embarrassed and did not want to disclose which school or university they attended because they felt it would stop them progressing.

The survey also found some variation throughout the regions of the UK. A quarter of respondents from London (26 per cent) and Scotland (25 per cent) said they felt the need to change their accents, compared to just 9 per cent in Wales.

Hephzi Pemberton, founder of Equality Group, said: “As companies are not legally required to hire from a range of socio-economic classes, businesses need to step up and address the benefits that come from diversity of thought and experience and hire accordingly.

“Businesses need to reassess their hiring practices to ensure that they offer equality of opportunity based on academic and professional experience and not ethnicity, gender or class.”

Pemberton added that it was “unacceptable that such a significant proportion of the British population believe that they need to change their accents or hide their background to flourish within their professional environments”.

The research echoes findings of a survey conducted earlier this year that found graduates were being put off joining businesses seen as being made up of predominantly middle and upper-class employees.

The survey, by Debut, discovered that 66 per cent of graduates felt they needed to ‘change who they were’, including in their appearance, to create a good impression at job interviews.