In the UK does accent count as a "legally protected characteristics"?

For example. If i have a thick Newcastle or Yorkshire accent, could an employer legally turn me down for a job for that reason?

  1. Race

The Act continues to protect people against discrimination on the grounds of their race, which includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin.

I'm not sure if it would be classed as something to do with race etc..

3 Answers 3


Discrimination on place of birth is arguably a form of racial discrimination.

But it seems unlikely that you would succeed arguing that you were discriminated against based on your accent. The discrimination would likely have to be about the country you were born in, rather than the regional "culture" you have


Unless and until the Socialist Republic of Yorkshire secedes from the United Kingdom, the fact that you come from Yorkshire is not going to count as 'nationality' or 'national origin' (far less 'race'), so it is not a legally protected characteristic. Employers have as much right to turn you down because of your accent as they do because of the colour of your hair; that is, there is no legal reason why not, though it probably is not something they would want to admit publicly.


As a counter argument, even if your possession of an accent (and a thick one, by your own admission) was considered a protected element of nationality, the employer could still deny you on those grounds if they meet three criteria:

  1. The requirement must be occupational in nature, with a link between the job and the requirement

  2. The requirement must be in service to an articulated legitimate aim.

  3. The requirement must be proportionate to the articulated aim, so that the restriction must be a reasonable way of achieving it.


So, it depends on the position applied for: if its is, for example, a janitorial job, its probably not legitimate, but if its a bank teller, phone center caller, or other verbal communication position, especially a "customer-facing" one, this may be a legitimate requiriement.

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