Business

Adults missing out on jobs because of their accent, study for Co-op suggests

"Our evidence shows socio-economic background can act as a brake on progression and performance.”

A new survey of 8,500 adults found that one-in-10 have been teased over their accent, leading some to change the way they speak during a job interview.
A new survey of 8,500 adults found that one-in-10 have been teased over their accent, leading some to change the way they speak during a job interview. A new survey of 8,500 adults found that one-in-10 have been teased over their accent, leading some to change the way they speak during a job interview.

ALMOST one-in-five adults believe they have missed out on a job because of their background, accent or social status, research suggests.

The Co-op said its survey of 8,500 people found that one in 10 have been teased over their accent, leading some to change the way they speak during a job interview.

The company said it was taking action to tackle the issue after its study revealed that many people believe the opportunities available to them are fewer and the outlook tougher, because of their background.

In light of the research, the Co-op said it is introducing a business plan on social mobility, which includes changing internal job adverts to make it easier for staff to find a new role, continuing plans to improve its financial wellbeing offer to help employees be more financially resilient, and establishing a mentoring scheme for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

The company also set out plans to ask the UK Government to make socio-economic background a protected characteristic, and will look to publish a socio-economic class pay gap report in 2024.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, chief executive of the Co-op Group, said: "Too often our life chances are defined by things outside of our control, be that gender, ethnicity, disability or socio-economic background.

"It cannot be right that those from less advantaged backgrounds are almost twice as likely to end up in working class jobs than others from more privileged backgrounds. It's a question of fairness.

"Our evidence shows socio-economic background can act as a brake on progression and performance. This has to change.

"We want to lead by example, taking action to identify where unfairness is holding our people back.

"That's why we've announced a range of measures today to break through these barriers, and that's why we are also calling on the Government and other parties to make it a priority in their manifesto - for socio-economic background to be made the 10th protected characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010 and it becoming illegal to discriminate against an individual because of their background."

Sarah Atkinson, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, commented: "We welcome Co-op's ambitious plan to improve social mobility and smash the class ceiling.

"The workplace is as important as the classroom for improving social mobility, and it is excellent to see Co-op take a lead on this issue."