What is the Accent Charter?
The Accent Charter regards an accent as an important part of a person's identity. Therefore employers must respect employees’ rights to communicate clearly with their own accents, without the fear facing discrimination within the workplace.
The Accent Charter aims to create an environment where accent inclusion is modelled from the board level to all teams so as to foster the elimination of accent discrimination during employment, career progression decisions and in business as usual.
The Accent Charter will ensure that responsibility is taken to ensure that accent diversity is accounted for when measuring culture and employee engagement. The intelligence gathered will be used to inform organisational policy and procedures.
A lot of people are facing unemployment or career stagnation owing to their accents irrespective of their intelligence. In 2019 a study by Queen Mary University found that 76% of employers admit to making discriminating decisions during the recruitment process owing to accents. Likewise, 55% of the 2,003 people who participated in a poll conducted by Equality Group believed that regional accents acted as a barrier to securing graduate corporate jobs, especially in London while another study found that 28% of Brits feel that they have to modify their accents so as to get on in life. Accents can also be used to determine the pace at which individuals progress in their different careers. The lazy stereotypes around accents mean that a lot of people feel highly pressurised to modify their accents so as to gain employment or progress their career.
Intersectionality which is the interlinked nature of social categorisation such as race, class and gender, means that people are already having to deal with other elements of discrimination, this makes it arduously difficult to bear the extra burdens of accent discrimination. A strong accent is often a strong indicator of belonging to a particular socioeconomic or racial grouping, those in the lower socio-economic spectrum are disproportionately impacted by accent focused discrimination. Despite the overwhelming evidence, accents are not a protected characteristic and there is no organisational policy that provides additional employment protection to regional and foreign speakers in the workspace. This means that cases of accentism are not being reported as there is no specific procedure put in place to facilitate and oversee the process. Furthermore, the legislation now requires that employers report on purpose, employee engagement and culture. However, accents are not one of the things that are being measured, allowing for the undercurrent of accent discrimination in the workspace.
The Impact of Accent Discrimination in the Workplace
The lack of intelligence on accent discrimination in the workplace have ensured that accent bias is constantly under the radar and produced spates of accent focused discrimination across the workforce. Impacts on employees include, but are not limited to, unemployment, career stagnation, toxic workplace culture, where individuals feel like they are having to walk on eggshells, negative work-life balance, mental health issues, such as low mood and depression, low productivity levels, lack of team collaboration, an unwelcoming ambience in the workspace, and the general lack of employee engagement. It has also created wide pay margins between employees who speak with received pronunciation and regional accented speakers. Accent focused bias is also linked to difficulty in accessing higher education and poverty.
Organisations stand to gain huge benefits by seeking talents from wide and diverse backgrounds. Some real and immediate benefits include: Improved employee engagement, increased productivity, creativity, increased profits, reduced turnover, improved customer reputation, a wide range of skills, varying perspectives, quick decision making, improved cultural insights and global impact.
The #ProtectAccent campaign is calling for organisations to take action in effectively addressing accent discrimination in the workspace and one of the ways they can do that is by signing the Accent Charter.
Benefits of employing from a wide and diverse talent pool
What can you do?
- Support the #ProtectAccent Campaign
- Endorse and sign up to the Accent Charter
- Support organisations to sign the Accent Charter
- Sign up to the Accent Charter
- Ensure that accents are considered when measuring culture and employee engagement in the workplace
- Create an environment where accent inclusion is modelled from the board level to all teams to aid the elimination of accent discrimination in employment, career progression decisions and general business
- Create a workplace culture supported by business policies and procedures which seek to eliminate accent based discrimination
- Facilitate positive change in team behaviour by providing training around accent bias and cross-cultural communication
- Check if your organisation has signed the Accent Charter
- Speak to your local trade union
- Become an Accent Charter Champion