Could an employer that refused to employ call centre staff with regional accents leave itself open to a claim of discrimination?
It is unlikely that an individual refused employment on account of a regional accent could bring a successful claim for unlawful discrimination, except in specific circumstances. The Equality Act 2010 protects job applicants against discrimination because of race, colour, nationality, ethnic origins and national origins. To bring a claim of race discrimination, the claimant must compare his or her treatment with that of someone who belongs to a different racial group. Since people from different regions within Britain are not of different racial groups as defined in the Equality Act 2010, no such claim could be brought. However, case law has ruled that, under the heading of "national origins", the Scots and the English are separate racial groups. By extension, the Welsh and Irish would also be separate racial groups. It follows that an employer's refusal to employ someone in a call centre because his or her accent was, for example, Scottish would breach the Equality Act 2010 and would thus leave it open to a claim of race discrimination.