New English language requirements for public-sector workers in customer-facing roles come into force on 21 November 2016, following the publication this week of provisions under the Immigration Act 2016.
Public sector English fluency
Workers must be sufficiently fluent in English, or – in Wales – in English or Welsh, for the effective performance of their role when the requirements come into effect.
The Government has published a code of practice to help employers meet the language requirements.
According to the code, the standard of English or Welsh required for a role will depend on factors such as the frequency, topic and length of spoken interaction, and the significance of spoken interaction for service delivery.
Public-sector authorities need to ensure that their HR policies and practices incorporate the language requirements, such as during recruitment.
Agency staff and self-employed contractors used by public bodies to provide customer-facing services must also meet the requirement.
Public-sector employers should apply the language requirements strictly to the required standard for the role, and ensure that they do not discriminate based on a worker’s race, nationality, ethnic origin or disability.
“The code was published in July of this year, with the language requirements initially expected to come into force in October. However, some public-sector employers may find themselves pressed for time, with only three weeks left until the 21 November implementation date,” said Qian Mou, employment law editor at XpertHR.
The language requirements will apply to public-sector employers, including:
Implementation date of public-sector language requirements
- central Government departments;
- non-departmental public bodies;
- councils and other local government bodies;
- NHS bodies;
- state-funded schools;
- the police and the armed forces; and
- public corporations.
Voluntary-sector and private-sector providers of public services do not have to apply the language requirements.