Press release: All public sector employees who work directly with the public to have fluent English

  • new legislation to make fluent English a requirement for all public sector staff working in customer-facing roles
  • public sector organisations will be required to ensure staff can speak at least school leaver levels of English
  • the requirement will be brought in as part of the new Immigration Bill

New legislation requiring every public sector worker employed in a public-facing role to speak fluent English will be introduced in September, Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock confirmed today.

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. 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 which 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.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock said:

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

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.

The government has already legislated to allow some health regulators to ask for evidence of English language competence from applicants trained in the EU who apply for registration with them, to work as healthcare professionals in the UK.

Primary legislation will be passed to extend this kind of language control to every public sector worker in a customer facing role. This will include police officers, social workers, teaching staff and assistants, Jobcentre Plus workers and local government employees.

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 United Kingdom.

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