Treating someone differently because they speak with an accent can be against the law.

This can include a decision not to employ a person because of their accent or harassing a person because of their accent.

Discrimination on the basis of a person’s accent will only be unlawful under the Racial Discrimination Act if it is clearly linked to his or her race or ethnic origin.  There are some limited exceptions.

Employers should clearly state in a job description the essential skills required for the position, for example, ‘high level spoken English’, rather than discriminating based on factors linked to race, such as accent.

Example: An applicant for a position as a customer service officer spoke English with an Indian accent. A recruiter contacted the applicant to progress her application but when the recruiter heard that the applicant spoke with an Indian accent, the applicant was told the position was no longer available. This could be racial discrimination.