Consulting employees whose first language is not English

If your employees have difficulties understanding English, or employees have low literacy levels, there are a number of ways you can communicate with them to encourage their involvement. The aim is to achieve the same standard of understanding and involvement as for an English speaker.

The following can help to involve and consult such employees:

  • Ensure adequate time to consult with employees where language and/or literacy may be issues so they can absorb the information and respond to you.
  • Encourage employees to express their views in their preferred language by using interpreters.
  • Ask a work colleague to interpret, although these employees may need training if they are asked to undertake this role.
  • Get information translated and check that this has been done clearly and accurately by testing it with native speakers. Tip: make sure it is clear in English first.
  • Use pictorial information and internationally understood pictorial signs where appropriate
  • Where information has to be in English, use clear and simple materials, and allow more time
  • Committees and representatives should reflect the workforce they represent.
  • Consider ESOL courses (English for Speakers of Other Languages) as an improved grasp of English will help communication in the workplace and on health and safety.

Be aware of cultural differences and take these into account when consulting employees - there may be some employees who do not feel able to speak up about health and safety matters.

The key to individual consultation is to make sure that everybody is involved so choose those methods that you know will reach all members of the workforce.

See also

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