BAME employees told to ‘Westernise’ names

BAME workers feel numerous pressures to fit in research finds, highlighting a serious and longstanding issue

A third (33%) of BAME employees have been told to adopt a ‘Western work name’ by their boss, according to employment law firm Slater and Gordon.

Its research, which surveyed 1,000 BAME workers, found that many gave in to the unlawful request, fearing judgement (20%), discrimination (19%) or to save the embarrassment of colleagues mispronouncing their name (18%). Three out of five (60%) workers said they felt their career would suffer if they did not Westernise their name.

The survey also found 34% of BAME workers had abandoned their birth name on their CV or in the workplace at least once during their career. When using a ‘Western work name’ on their CV 28% felt they were offered more roles and 27% said they gained more job interviews.

Numerous studies show a correlation between ‘ethnic-sounding names’ and a lack of success in job applications. Organisations including Deloitte, HSBC, KPMG, the NHS and the BBC, have introduced ‘name-blind recruitment’ in recent years, which means that jobseekers’ names aren’t seen by recruiters.

BAME workers also felt pressure to fit in in other ways, the Slater and Gordon research found, with 38% saying they changed one or more elements of their identity to fit in at work.

When asked whether they had seen progress in racial equality at work, a third (33%) said they felt workplace inclusion had not improved during their career.

Principal lawyer in the employment team at Slater and Gordon Ruby Dinsmore said: “It is shocking that in 2019 employees are still being explicitly or implicitly pressurised by managers to change their names.

“This research highlights that significant progress is needed with respect to inclusion in the workplace. Employers need to be aware that this behaviour is unacceptable, potentially discriminatory and therefore unlawful.”

The research echoes a long history of people feeling the need to change their names to avoid prejudice, commented Binna Kandola, founder and senior partner at Pearn Kandola…

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