BAME Employees Told To ‘Westernise’ Their Names

This research shows workplace discrimination takes many forms

UNLAWFUL: Many black workers feel their names need to be more Western

NEARLY ONE in three black and minority ethnic (BAME) employees have been told to adopt a ‘Western work name’ by their boss, according to new research.

Figures from employment law firm Slater and Gordon, which surveyed some 1,000 BAME employees, found that many gave in to 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 (60 per cent) workers said they felt their career would suffer if they did not adopt a more English-friendly moniker in the workplace. And the research also found that 34 per cent of those surveyed had abandoned the birth name on their CV or in the workplace at least once during their career.

Under the 2010 Equality Act, it is illegal to treat someone differently or less favourably than other staff, based on their race. 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 diffcultly pronouncing their real name.

“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 workplace discrimination takes many forms and continues to impact many BAME individuals. 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 t in (23 per cent). Pressure to fit in was felt most heavily by younger staff, with 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 did 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 per cent heard it in a song. ‘Western work names’ were a shortlived 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 percent for the full length of their career. Among those who have been affected by this issue is Emmanuel Anthony Babatunde.

He said: “I sent my CV in to apply for a job but never got a response using Emmanuel Babatunde. I re- applied using the exact same CV but changing my name to Emmanuel Anthony (Anthony being my middle name), and was asked to come in for an interview.

Another BAME employees, Richie Emmanuel Bendela said: “I was looking to leave Selfridges for an of ce-based role. I was applying for up to 50 jobs a day using Richie Bendela.

“I’d receive a decline message or no response at all. I then read an article about a Muslim girl who had to ‘whiten up’ her name, so I decided to use my middle name and apply as Richie Emmanuel for the same roles. I ended up with around 12 interviews that week.”

The Slater and Gordon research backs other studies done in recent years which show a link between ‘ethnic-sounding names’ and a lack of success in job applications.

Organisations such as Deloitte, KPMG and HSBC are among those who have introduced name-blind recruitment in a bid to reduce the chances of discrimination.

One in three of those surveyed by Slater and Gordon said they felt workplace inclusion had not improved during their career, with one in five believing discrimination had got worse.

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