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Saturday, 14 December

Mind Your Language - Demand for English Standard Announced

The government has confirmed that it expects public sector workers dealing face to face with customers to speak English fluently.

New legislation will require that ‘every’ public sector worker employed in a ‘public-facing’ role to speak fluent English which will be introduced next month, confirmed Cabinet Office Minister, Matt Hancock.

This will mean that all public sector organisations must ensure that staff can communicate effectively with the public, to what is expected to be at least ‘Level 2’ – equivalent to a ‘C’ or above at GCSE.

This requirement would increase depending on the nature of the role and profession, Minister Hancock explained. Doctors, for example, are already required to have a much higher level of English.

Organisations including the NHS, armed forces and state-funded schools will all be bound by a new code of practice that will be produced following a consultation in the autumn. The legislation and code of practice will apply to both existing and new employees working in public-facing roles. Management within all public sector bodies will have to decide how to ‘test’ their staff based on guidance in the code. Those ‘existing’ employees who are deemed not fluent enough may be given time to improve. At the time of going to press, it is not clear what kind of appeal an existing employee might have.

“We are controlling immigration for the benefit of all hard-working people,” said Mr Hancock. “That includes making sure that foreign nationals employed in customer-facing public sector roles are able to speak a high standard of English.”

With political pressure mounting over the migrant crisis in Calais and criticism over levels of permitted immigration, the government has been put on the back foot in this area. “We have already introduced tough new language requirements for migrants, now we will introduce new legislation in the forthcoming Immigration Bill to deliver the commitment made by the Prime Minister to go further,” Mr Hancock countered. “This will be the first time there has been a co-ordinated approach to enforcing fluent English across the public sector and will create a consistent experience for taxpayers, while promoting integration and British values in the UK.”

Picture:   Staff in public sector organisations will have to have an acceptable level of fluency in English when the latest Immigration Bill is passed.

Article written by Mike Gannon

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