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Quarter change how they speak at work to fit in

Over half (55%) of workers believe stigma around regional accents negatively impacts career progression, according to the Equality Group

The research asked 2,000 employees from a range of sectors how perceptions of class and status impact their confidence in the workplace.

It found that over three-quarters (76%) of employees believe people with higher socio-economic status have increased access to ‘better’ careers and job opportunities, regardless of experience or qualifications.

Almost a quarter (22%) said they've altered the way they speak and changed their dialect to fit in. Over one in ten (12%) said their families have commented on the fact that they now, since working in their current profession, speak in a ‘posh’ manner or have lost their regional accent.

One in ten (10%) employees said they had chosen not to reveal where they had been born and raised to their employer due to concerns around facing stigma as a result.

This follows separate research from the Social Mobility Commission released back in May, which showed that social mobility has remained virtually stagnant in the UK. It found that just 34% of those from working class backgrounds secured professional jobs in 2018, rising only marginally from 32% in 2014.

Hephzi Pemberton, founder and CEO of the Equality Group, said that businesses must reassess their hiring practices, with a greater focus on socio-economic status.

"It is a shocking reality that in 2019 76% of professionals correctly regard the workplace as not promoting equal opportunities free from class bias," she 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."

Employees should be encouraged to embrace their backgrounds rather than hide their identities, she added. “It is 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. Employees should be proud of their backgrounds and their professional environments should value their diversity of experience and thought, not dampen it," she said.

“As a society of business leaders, decision-makers and professionals, we need to take it upon ourselves to create a diverse workforce, not merely as a way of ticking diversity quotas, but because diverse teams inspire new innovation and perspectives, driving profitability. It makes good business sense."