British workers were reportedly refused jobs at a factory supplying Asda because they did not speak Polish.
According to newspaper reports the cooked meat manufacturer Forza AW would only hire British workers for its production line in East Anglia if they spoke Polish fluently.
The company said the Polish language requirement outlined in a job advert was necessary because the health and safety training was conducted in Polish, the Mail on Sunday reported.
The equality watchdog has said it will write to Forza about the allegations.
Neil Kinghan, director general of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), told the Evening Standard: “Any refusal to register an applicant because of their nationality is unlawful under the Race Relations Act.
“The commission will be writing to Forza AW this week to ask it to respond to the allegations made against the company and to confirm that it will comply with the Race Relations Act and not discriminate against British, or any other workers on the grounds of their nationality.”
The advert for factory workers at Forza was sent out via e-mail by East Anglia-based employment agency OSR Recruitment earlier this month. It said: “Transport provided. Applicants must speak Polish. Please call asap.” A Mail on Sunday reporter listened in as a 31-year-old man phoned OSR to ask about the jobs.
The first question he was asked was: “Are you Polish?” When he said no, but could speak the language a little, he was told: “Actually, you have to be fluent because the health and safety training is all done in Polish.”
But Forza claimed the advert was “a mistake due to a breakdown in communications and should never have gone out”.
Max Hillard, chief executive of Forza, said: “We employ many English workers as well as Poles and Lithuanians, though I can’t give you exact figures, and I assure you categorically that all our training and health and safety briefings are conducted in English, Polish or whatever the employee speaks.
“I cannot say how this error came about, perhaps a glib comment was made about the difficulty of operating in several different languages, I don’t know, but we would never turn down an English person for a job on the basis that they didn’t speak Polish or any other language.
“It should never have happened and I apologise to anyone who was put off applying for jobs as a result of this e-mail.”