Can you Adam and Eve it!?…Victims of accent bias need legal protection
This could well be the latest unrecognised discrimination: Geordies, Liverpudlians and Cockneys are all potential victims of “accentism”.
Alexander Baratta, a lecturer in English language at the University of Manchester’s school of education said “People with a strong regional accent suffer from such negative perceptions that many feel forced to “posh up” their speech.” Alexander said his research suggested that people who did so felt so wretched about it that they deserve legal protection. Accentism is, he suggested, the “last taboo” after the fight against racism, ageism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.
“We should acknowledge that any form of workplace discrimination, to include accentism, should not be tolerated in a society which seeks to be more inclusive,” Dr Baratta said. “This is why ‘accentism’ should be taken seriously as a problem which affects many of us.
Dr. Baratta goes on to suggest that most people modify their accent not because they lack pride in it, but because they fear the negative perceptions others might have of them if they don’t, especially in work-related contexts.
His research involved questioning 98 children, students and staff from schools and universities – a third of respondents told him that altering their pronunciation made them feel a fraud. They included a teacher from Lancashire, who modified his accent at a job interview and a businessman from Liverpool who spoke differently in meetings.
Dr Baratta said: “Many Brits consciously modify their accent in social situations as a means to create a better impression. While this is a common practice, we should not assume that it is accepted by all speakers without issue.
Dr. Baratta felt his point was perfectly illustrated when he referred to an Ofsted inspector who last year, told a Cumbrian teacher working in a Berkshire school to sound ‘more southern’.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a job-seeker on grounds of race, colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origins, as well as sex, marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity.
It’s up to employers to ensure that they have policies and practices in place that will prevent discrimination.
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