Research from employment law specialists Slater and Gordon has found nearly one in three ethnic minority employees have been told to adopt a ‘western work name’ by their boss. Many gave into the unlawful request, fearing judgement (20 per cent), discrimination (19 per cent) or to save the embarrassment of colleagues mispronouncing their name (18 per cent). Three out of five workers also felt their career would suffer if they did not westernise their name.
The law says treating someone differently or less favourably than other staff, based on their race, is direct discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Overall, the research found 34 per cent of the 1000 BAME workers surveyed had abandoned their birth name on their CV or in the workplace at least once during their career. Sadly, one in three of those surveyed, said they felt workplace inclusion had not improved during their career, with one in five believing discrimination had got worse.
“It is shocking that in 2019 employees are still being explicitly or implicitly pressurised by managers to change their names,” said Slater and Gordon employment lawyer, Ruby Dinsmore. “Although many were not asked outright by their boss to change their name to more western sounding names, many said they felt pressurised into doing so to make it easier for their colleagues as they had difficultly pronouncing their real name.
“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,” she adds.
When BAME job-seekers used a ‘western work name’ on their CV 28 per cent felt they were offered more roles and 27 per cent said they landed more job interviews. Names weren’t the only thing sacrificed, 38 per cent of BAME workers said they changed one or more elements of their identity to fit in at work.
This included changing their appearance (41 per cent), what they ate (25 per cent) and adhering to other religious or cultural practices to fit in (23 per cent). Pressure to fit in was felt most heavily by younger staff, 19-years-old the average age to take on a western work name.
‘Western work names’ were a short lived choice for 40 per cent, who used an alias name until the job application process was complete or their probation period was up. But 16 per cent kept a work name for a number of years, 11 per cent kept it for decades and 12 per cent for the full length of their career.