Work discrimination: what's in a name?

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Thu, 29/11/2012 - 11:13 -- JobZoo

In our current economic climate, getting your foot on the employment ladder is no easy task. But what if something as fundamental like the colour of your skin or the background of your name puts you at a huge disadvantage? In our most recent poll, 48% of you believed that the colour of your skin still affects the chances of gaining employment and 32% of you are simply not sure. It would seem that racism is still a current issue within our society, particularly in the work place.

Recent research by the Department for Work and pension found that those with a foreign name were at a disadvantage when applying for a job due to prejudice shown by firms. In 2009 researchers sent nearly 3,000 job applications under false identities in an attempt to discover if employers were discriminating against jobseekers with foreign names. In a shocking result it found that applicants who appeared to be white would send nine applications before receiving a positive response of either an invitation to an interview or an encouraging telephone call. Minority candidates with the same qualifications and experience had to send 16 applications before receiving a similar response.

Unfortunately racism and discrimination when it comes to employment can still be a problem. Have we moved on from the work-place discrimination of 70s and 80s, or is it just better hidden?

We’re not saying that every employer will discriminate against applicants with different ethnicities as many have employment regulations in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen. Racism and discrimination will always exist in society, even if it is minimal.

Should those with a foreign name consider changing it to something quintessentially British? Absolutely not. Britain is a multi-cultural country and employers should embrace a multi-cultural workforce. A name is just a name, but it may even make you stand out for the better, especially for a role which hundreds of Tom, Dick and Harry’s are applying for.

Iqbal Wahhab, founder British fine dining restaurants Roast and The Cinnamon Club and former chair of the Government’s advisory board on ethnic minorities, believes that ethnic minorities carry a responsibility not to “over-anticipate bias against their names. Skills and confidence trump prejudice." Well said.

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