New rules will come into force later this month, dictating that public-sector workers in customer-facing roles must be sufficiently fluent in the English language – or in Wales, English or Welsh – the Personnel Today website has reported.
The news comes following the publication of provisions under the Immigration Act 2016. When the new requirements come into effect on 21 November 2016, all public-sector workers who deal with the general public will have to adhere to the English language code of practice published by the government and sent out to employers.
The code will dictate that a certain level of English or Welsh will be needed for roles that require interaction with the public. The standard of English (or Welsh) required will vary according to factors such as the frequency of spoken interactions, and the length and topic of interactions. The importance of spoken interaction for effective service delivery will also be taken into account.
It will also be necessary for any agency staff or self-employed contractors used by public sector bodies in public-facing roles to adhere to the new requirements.
With all this in mind, it is essential that public-sector authorities now check their HR policies and practices to ensure that they factor in the new language requirements – particularly during recruitment stages.
It will be important for employers to apply the language requirements stringently, and to ensure there is no discrimination against workers according to their nationality, race, ability or ethnic origin. Commenting on the changes, one employment law editor advised that some employers may find themselves pressed for time to get everything into place.
The public-sector employers required to apply the new language rules will include NHS bodies; central Government departments; councils and local government bodies; non-departmental public bodies; state-funded schools; public corporations; and the police and armed forces.