Which workers are covered by the public-sector English language requirement?

The requirement to speak fluent English (or Welsh, in Wales) applies to people who work for public authorities in customer-facing roles. This includes employees, workers, apprentices, agency workers, police officers and people in Crown employment.

Under s.77(7) of the Immigration Act 2016, a person works in a customer-facing role if he or she is required to speak to members of the public in English (or Welsh) as a regular and intrinsic part of his or her role.

The statutory Code of practice on the English language requirements for public-sector workers recommends that, when determining whether or not a role is customer facing, employers should consider:

  • whether or not there is a business need for interaction with the public;
  • the frequency and form of any such interaction;
  • the level of service quality and responsiveness expected by the public;
  • the proportion of the role that requires spoken interaction with members of the public;
  • the nature of the role; and
  • whether or not English (or Welsh, in Wales) is the primary language required for the role.

The code gives the example of a street cleaner employed by a local authority as someone in a role that would not be viewed as customer facing, because his or her main duties do not require regular interaction with members of the public. Any interaction would be occasional and not an intrinsic part of the role.

The code clarifies that "members of the public" includes customers, patients and clients.