Monday, April 3, 2017

We have a multi-lingual workforce. Can we insist that all staff only speak English while at work? - LEXOLOGY

by Julie Austin
Originally published: March 31, 2017

Many workplaces are made up of several nationalities some of whom do not speak English as their native tongue. We are often asked by multi-cultural employers if they can introduce a company policy whereby employees are only permitted to speak English while at work.

This issue was dealt with in a Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) decision in January 2017 in the case of A General Operative v A Medical Device Company ADJ-00001835. In this case, a Polish employee claimed that she had been discriminated against on the grounds of race and nationality when she was instructed by her supervisor to speak English when working on a production line with others of a different nationality. The employee argued that no health and safety grounds existed which would merit such a policy in the workplace.