English language and Welsh language fluency duty for public authority workers

The following Employment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • English language and Welsh language fluency duty for public authority workers
  • The fluency duty
  • Public authorities
  • Workers to whom the fluency duty applies
  • What constitutes a customer-facing role
  • Workers whose first language is a signed language
  • The standard of fluency required
  • Non-compliance with the fluency duty
  • Complaints

English language and Welsh language fluency duty for public authority workers

This Practice Note considers the public sector ‘fluency duty’, ie the requirement for workers in customer-facing roles in public authorities to be fluent in the English language (or in Wales, in English and Welsh).

The fluency duty

Since 21 November 2016 there is a statutory requirement for workers in customer-facing roles in public authorities to be fluent in the English language (or, in Wales, in English and Welsh). This measure was introduced because it was thought that sufficient fluency and comprehension in all interactions with the public would help ensure more efficient and effective public services.

The duty is for those workers to be able to speak English (and/or Welsh) fluently. In this context, fluently mean that they have a command of spoken English (and/or Welsh) which is sufficient to enable the effective performance of their role.

A draft statutory Code of Practice to assist employers in complying with the fluency duty was published in October 2016 and then an updated version was produced in November 2016. The new version of the Code came into effect on 22 December 2016. A Welsh translation is also available. The Code contains practical guidance on the standards and practices expected of public authorities when complying with their legal obligations. It sets out principles and examples for employers to consider. Relevant public

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