English Language Requirement: Immigration Act introduces Code of Practice for Public Sector Workers

The Home Office recently published a draft code on English Language, to inform public authorities of their new “fluency duty”. The new draft code is intended to ensure that every public sector worker, operating in a customer-facing role, can speak fluent English.   The draft Code, published by Cabinet Office Minister Ben Gummer this month, has been made under Part 7 of the Immigration Act 2016 which received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016. We briefly outline the English language requirements set out in the draft code below. 

Home Office Code of Practice: English Language Requirement

The Immigration Act 2016 places an obligation on public authorities which include: central government; non-departmental public bodies; councils and other local government bodies; NHS bodies; state funded schools; the police and the armed forces; and public corporations. It aims to ensure that each person who works for the public authority in a customer-facing role speaks fluent English (or Welsh, in Wales); that the public authority must operate an adequate procedure for enabling complaints to be made and for the consideration of such complaints.

The Code of Practice outlines;

  • the minimum standard of spoken English to be met by public bodies,
  •  the action to be taken by a public authority where someone does not meet that standard;
  • the procedure to be operated to deal with any complaints; and
  • how the public authority can comply with its other duties including its obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

Workers may require Qualifications or to pass English Language Test

The Code of practice sets out that in a situation where a particular standard of spoken language ability has been legitimately set as an essential requirement for the role, prospective public sector workers may need to be assessed on their English speaking ability, either through a formal test or as part of the interview process.However the code does not envisage that existing members of staff will all need to be tested.

The code advises that public authorities should be prepared to accept a range of evidence of spoken language ability. It goes on to list a number of ways members of staff or prospective workers could demonstrate their fluency, some of which include the following;

  • competently answering interview questions in English or Welsh; 
  • possessing a relevant qualification for the role attained as part of education in the UK or fully taught in English or Welsh by a recognised institution abroad; or
  • passing an English or Welsh spoken language competency test or possessing a relevant spoken English or Welsh qualification at CEFR Level B1 or above, taught in English or Welsh by a recognised institution abroad.

Part 7 of the Immigration Act 2016 is due to take effect 6 months after the the Immigration Act which recieved royal assent in May. The Home Office has also published a factsheet regarding the new English language requirement which can be found here.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has stated on the aims of the new requirement;

“Being able to speak English is key to integrating into our society. All public sector workers should be able to speak English fluently so they can communicate effectively with their customers and colleagues.
Our new rules will break down the language barrier to help the public use the services they need and promote integration and British values.”

 UK Visa Advice For Applicants

If you would like to discuss how the English language requirement may affect you, call one of our immigration solicitors in London who will be able to assist you by meeting with you and reviewing your case. There are many providers but many have had their visas refused for taking tests with rogue providers. Contact us/instruct us so we can review your case and ensure you have the correct documentary evidence in place in this regard.

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