It may have been branded one of the sexiest accents in the UK but people who speak with an Essex twang are more likely to experience bias, a study has found.

The study by The Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has found there is an "enduring hierarchy of accents" in the UK.

It examined current attitudes to accents with those shown by comparable surveys 15 years ago and 50 years ago.

It found public attitudes to different accents and their related stereotypes had remained largely unchanged over time.

The research was undertaken to look at the impact a person's accent has on their opportunities and life outcomes.

It examined if people were biased, positively or negatively, towards different accents and whether accent bias affected a person's judgment in a professional setting.

The QMUL study found people older than 40 were more likely than those in their 20s to judge job candidates as less employable if they spoke with regional working class accents even though they were equally qualified.

But the report found lawyers and recruiters in the legal profession were more nuanced than the general public when it came to accents.

In a blog Devyani Sharma, Professor of Sociolinguistics, said: "Opinions found 50 years ago in a survey by Howard Giles remain today.

"In a new survey of attitudes to 38 different British accents, we found that exactly the same accents continue to attract high prestige - received pronunciation, the Queen’s English, French-accented English, Edinburgh English, one’s own accent - and the same accents continue to receive low ratings, particularly ethnic minority accents (Indian) and historically industrial urban accents (Cockney, Liverpool, Essex, Birmingham).

"So British working class and ethnic accents still face negative bias half a century on."

In May the Essex accent was said to be the sexiest in the UK.

Travel company Big 7 said, following a poll, Essex had emerged victorious above popular accents like Northern Irish and Glaswegian.

It was thought to have been boosted by the popularity of stars like Olly Murs and shows like The Only Way is Essex, the accent has increased in popularity rapidly in recent years.

Erez Levon, Professor of Sociolinguistics, added: "Accent bias exists. We all have automatic associations with particular voices.

"Bias becomes discrimination when we allow these associations to govern our judgment of unrelated traits such as intelligence or competence.

"Our work offers hope that people have the capacity to prevent their automatic biases from affecting their judgment."