23 May 2019
Bosses Tell BAME Employees to Get a 'Western Work Name'
Nearly one in three ethnic minority employees have been told to adopt a ‘western work name’ by their boss, new research has shown.
Black Asian Minority and Ethic workers, also known as BAME, revealed they have directly or indirectly been told to use more English sounding names in the workplace.
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.
The research, commissioned by employment law specialists Slater and Gordon, 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.
Slater and Gordon employment lawyer, Ruby Dinsmore, said: “It is shocking that in 2019 employees are still being explicitly or implicitly pressurised by managers to change their names.
“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.”
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.
Of the 34 per cent who changed their name, nearly half changed their first name, a third changed their family name and a fifth changed both.
When selecting a name, 30 per cent picked a name at random, 24 per cent took it from a movie or TV show and 12 percent heard it in a song.
‘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.
Ruby Dinsmore, employment lawyer, from Slater and Gordon, added: “A name is a key part of a person’s identity and is usually given to us with love by our parents.
“It is not something we should feel pressured into changing for the purpose of fitting in or more crucially, for fear of suffering negative treatment at work or during the recruitment process.
“This research shows that workplace discrimination takes many forms and continues to impact many BAME individuals. Feeling the need to change your name to avoid bias or potential discrimination at work is not something BAME employees should feel they need to do in 2019, but unfortunately our research reveals many feel they have no option.
“Feeling the need to change your given name to conform, aid your employer or your colleagues is demoralising and can cause tensions at work. It shouldn’t be expected of an employee, and BAME employees should not feel forced into this position.”
A quarter reverted back to their real names following a change in their workplace culture, including feeling more comfortable in their role, or their workplaces becoming more accepting.
While many believe their adopted names benefited them at work (55 per cent), they also said it harmed their personal lives and relationships with family.
Nearly two thirds admitted lying or avoiding telling their family about the name change because they felt guilt or embarrassment and knew their family would feel hurt.
Top reasons for BAME workers to change their names
- To avoid bias or judgment
- Fear of discrimination
- Colleagues mispronouncing their name
- To appear neutral
- Colleagues not being able to spell their name
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