English language requirements for public sector workers

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The government has issued final guidance to help employers ensure that their staff in customer-facing roles speak English to an appropriate standard. 

Forming part of the Immigration Act 2016, the code of practice aims to raise standards so that people accessing public services interact with staff that speak fluent English.

Employers are expected to comply with this new legal duty following the code of practice being enforced by regulations under the Immigration Act 2016.

Employers that follow our employment check standards and language competency guidance (currently being updated to reflect the new information) during the appointment of staff, will not be required to do anything new or different. If you haven't yet reviewed your local HR policies and practices to ensure you are in line with the statutory requirements, we would encourage you to do so.

Read the code of practice on the English language requirement for public sector workers.


Reviewing policies and practices

It might be helpful to consider the following actions:

·         review HR policies and practices so they reflect the statutory language requirements, as well as comply with existing legislation and language competency guidance

·         ensure your recruitment and selection processes reflect the statutory language requirements, and those involved in selection are clear about their responsibilities to assess language competence

·         in adverts and job descriptions, make sure that the necessary standard of English required of the role is clearly stated

·         in contracts of employment, stipulate the standard of English that is required for the role

·         when working with employment agencies, be clear about the standard of English language required in service level agreements

·         have an appropriate, visible complaints procedure in the event of complaints regarding a staff member's language competency from a member of the public.  

Further guidance can be found in our employment check standards. 


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