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#1 DebD

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 04:06 PM

Dear All,

We have a multilingual workforce of which a significant proportion don't have English as a first language. Most of the non-english speakers are from one country leaving a small number of other nationals.

I have been told that we cannot post signs and notices in only English and the majority non-english language unless we also inlcude the other languages too, as to not do this would be discriminating against the minority. I am not sure where this has come from as I have been to other factories where I think this has been done.

Can anybody let me know the policies where they are or any links to where I can get more information on this please,

thanks.



#2 Simon

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 08:43 AM

How can you employ somebody who cannot read, write or speak English? To me in any factory this would be dangerous and in a food factory presents additional food safety hazards. If this was the case I would expect the company has a duty to improve their English language skills including learning the meaning of the English language signs. You could also just use images wher possible. :smile:

These are just my personal thoughts and I'm going to see what I can find out realting to the law on this.

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Simon


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#3 Anne Z

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 09:51 AM

Hi

Did you thought about mandatory signs or other signs?
You don't always need text to explain things.

Good luck!

Anne

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#4 GMO

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 11:08 AM

I have always taken the view that people employed should be able to read, write and speak English to a sufficient level to be able to do their job and understand important instructions (especially health and safety for example).


I've had a look on the equality website and this is what I found:


http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/code_of_practice_on_racial_equality_in_employment.pdf


"There is a clear business interest in having a common language in the workplace, to avoid misunderstandings, with all the risks these can entail, whether legal, financial or in relation to health and safety. It is also a matter of courtesy, conducive to good working relations, not to exclude people from conversations that might concern them, when they are present. In the main, English is the language of business in Britain and is likely to be the preferred language of communication in most workplaces (see Example 15 on p 57), unless other languages are specifically required."


"Where the workforce includes people who are not proficient in the language of the workplace, employers should consider taking reasonable steps to improve communication (see Example I at para 4.58). These might include providing:


a. interpreting and translation facilities; for example, multilingual safety signs and notices, to make sure workers understand health and safety requirements;

b. training in language and communication skills; and

c. training for managers and supervisors on the various populations and cultures that make up Britain today."




So it appears that you can do multilingual signs although there is no mention about it having to be in all languages of the site; however, if you have one Russian worker for example and your signs are in Polish and English, I can see how that could be discriminatory. They do give another option above though and that is to train people. I would work with your union (if you have one) to provide English basic skills courses and as Anne said put as much information visually as possible to avoid language skills being an issue and train your management in doing this too. I think interpreting all your signs is a slippery path. Where do you stop? It will slow down your pace of change considerably and may worsen any "us and them" atmosphere which is already brewing.



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#5 Liberty h

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 12:37 PM

All of the comments are very valid, however the assumption that all people applying for jobs in the food industry should have a good understanding of English is a bit unrealistic in my opinion. My company is in a rural area "up north" and there have been times when we have had to rely upon the steady stream of foreign nationals in the area to staff up. The low pay and long hours can put many off this type of job.

We do provide a translator to give inductions and food safety training but how far do you go with language training? With changing shifts and regular staff turnover is this financially feasible in contrast to putting up a few translated signs?

In some cases we have used photos to explain however some messages only really work in word form. For example I produced an SOP (safe operating procedure) using only pictures of the high care change procedure and this was tricky as its had to convey the motion of swinging over a bench with one foot cover on the first foot.

I think Deb D is trying to find out if anybody has had a similar experience in dual-language sign-age.

Regards
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#6 Inesa

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 10:09 PM

Dear Liberty,

I don't have any clever comment just a thought about how it is possible to ensure that everyone understood training? I just think that if a person makes some dangerous mistake, he can always say "what do you want from me, I misunderstood training :dunno: how can you trust?
Is there a person- translator all the time in order to answer quiestion people might have during production?

... and it seems like you're having fun :smile:


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#7 GMO

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 09:11 PM

I've had personal experience of working on a site where for some time English language skills were not checked and not seen to be important on recruitment, in fact non British nationalities had been deliberately targeted due to the lack of British applicants. It did cause more problems than it solved. In the end we worked with a local college and got a literacy bus on site every week, we worked with the union and got them to lay on free training. There were several problems; not just signage. Ok, imagine one of these people is doing a metal detector check, you need a translator for training but then you need a translator for auditing as well...? Is that practical or right? How do you know the translator isn't telling the person how to answer the questions you're asking? Ok, then so you say, "I won't employ someone with poor English skills in such a job" but hang on, isn't that more discriminatory? Isn't it better for everyone if you try to improve those skills? The other problem; which was huge was that there was an Urdu speaking section, a Polish speaking section, a Russian speaking section. None of these people shared a language they could communicate with each other in. That made it very difficult to get any kind of teamwork. In the town I was in I was told by a local guy how there were different gangs of each nationality who would fight each other at weekends, many of whom worked in the factory. Now language isn't all of the cause of that but it can't help. I had the situation where people would talk to each other in their native language in front of people who couldn't understand them because they couldn't use English. That made these other people assume they were talking about them (even though they weren't). That fuels resentment....

Yes it's difficult to only recruit people of a decent English language skill or commit to training those people but without it just translating a few signs might not go far enough unless it's the first step in a longer journey in integration and training.



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#8 Simon

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Posted 28 January 2011 - 09:14 PM

Looking at this from a purely Health & Safety viewpoint the company has a duty to protect employees from harm and from harming each other, employees also have a duty to protect themselves and must not cause harm to others. It is my view that people are the most important part of any system and they can make it succeed or fail. Poor communication in any form is detrimental to the people part of the system and clear and common language is a vital factor to good communication. A company that does not or cannot deliver all that is required (knowingly or not) to ensure that employees who cannot speak the indigenous language are catered for effectively via signs, training, support, interpreters etc. are in my opinion negligent. If you do not have all the resources in place to achieve full language integration then do not employ somebody who cannot speak the standard company language. That's my opinion, maybe I am discriminating?


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#9 Charles.C

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 05:52 AM

Dear Simon,

(HSE pundit),

Out of curiosity, how does officialdom allow an employer to decide if a potential employee's lack of English represents a significant "harm" risk, ie is there a minimum expected competence in English speaking/writing, (eg i before e except after c?), (offside rule) :whistle:

Rgds / Charles.C


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#10 faisal rafique

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 11:14 AM

Dear all,
There are different languages and nationals and you can not go for a single language or nationality.
Best practice may be signs understood to all and understanding can be developed through training. Multi language signs may be used on different places.
Faisal Rafique



#11 Jomy Abraham

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 11:56 AM

Dear All

I am belongs to a country where peoples speaks more than 23 approved languages ( written fonts). Each state has thier own monther tounge apart from the national mother tounge. But in fact 40% of the population(2nd largest in the world) still cant speak the national language due to the multi linguistic states. But all organization around the country has the base of English Language. We cant expect a labour to read write, speak and understand English. In order to manage the linguistis issues, the parents of each kids are bothered about the competitive world and they used to teach english. This situation, helps each organization to define the criteria of language requirement for each positions. Above labour levels, everybody should be able to understand english. All communications are in English in the organization. Based on the population of the workforce, organization sets the criteria of communication. As we discussed, its mandatory to display the communication in Multi languages on the same board ( example- English ( common language), Hindi - National language, Malayalam- State Language). In Middle east, we used to display communications/posters in minimum four languages. The easy way to express the requirement is pictures/images...........

Regards
Jomy Abraham



#12 Simon

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 08:57 PM

I agree pictures speak a thousand words in any language and are a wise choice. My only issue with taking employees on who do not speak the standard company language and then wondering how they shall cope are negligent IMHO.


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#13 jaredkkrischel

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 06:02 PM

To me, if employees can fill out applications correctly and can pass all the training they should be able to read and write English well enough to understand signs in the factory. We had a pretty long discussion about this the other day and we came to the conclusion that we should commit to English only because if there is another language in some areas of the plant and not in others, employees could use that as a reason they got injured or made a mistake in food safety. This could then turn into a legal issue and it would all go downhill from there. So basically what I am saying is that whatever route you go, just make sure you are consistant in all areas of the plant.



#14 GMO

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 09:01 PM

I agree pictures speak a thousand words in any language and are a wise choice. My only issue with taking employees on who do not speak the standard company language and then wondering how they shall cope are negligent IMHO.


My soon to be former workplace did a "following instructions" test for new employees. It was like the English comprehension verbal reasoning tests they tend to give people on graduate schemes and some management jobs but much, much simpler. IMO it is a sensible approach because it not only finds out if the person's language skills aren't sufficient but it also finds out British nationals who also lack comprehension skills. You could always decide to still recruit even if someone didn't do well in such a test but then know what kind of training to give if you feel doing something like that would be discriminatory.

#15 GMO

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 09:03 PM

To me, if employees can fill out applications correctly and can pass all the training...


Be wary of that. You know how you can tell when it's a woman's handwriting with some women? I've had applications which have obviously not been filled out by a man allegedly for a male candidate and by the time you're onto training they're already an employee...




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