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Immigration Bill will demand English fluency in public sector

All public sector staff in customer-facing roles must be able to speak fluent English as of next month.

Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock MP confirmed yesterday (2 August) that workers will need to attain at least ‘level 2’, equivalent to a C or above at GCSE. The requirement could increase depending on the nature of the profession, with doctors needing to speak a higher level of English and undergo General Medical Council testing.

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.”

The new code of practice will cover everything from the NHS, armed forces and state-funded schools to police officers, social workers, teaching staff, and Jobcentre Plus and council employees. Organisations will be responsible for testing their staff to ensure they can “communicate effectively with the public”.

The legislation will be a part of the new Immigration Bill, originally unveiled in the Queen’s Speech in 2013.

This will be the country’s first broad approach to enforce English fluency in the public sector and create a “consistent experience for taxpayers while promoting integration and British values”.

Currently some health regulators can already ask for evidence of English language competence from potential healthcare professionals originally trained in the EU.

According to statistics from the ONS, in 2011 around 138,000 people in the UK could not speak English at all, while 726,000 others reported they could not speak it well.

Top image c. Dominic Lipinski, PA Wire


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