How to deal effectively with diversity and multiculturalism in the workplace and community

Multi-ethnic populations with a variety of languages are becoming the norm. When a workforce is ethnically diverse, this means that there is a need for racial tolerance and understanding across cultures. It also means that there is a need to ensure that everyone, regardless of their level of English competency, has access to the same crucial information.

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees, and failure to implement Health and Safety regulations can mean costly law suits. Employees have a duty to comply with Health and Safety regulations too. This means that people whose mother tongue is not English could be at a disadvantage.

Employers should hire a language translation agency to translate important information so that there is understanding of rules and regulations pertaining to Health and Safety. If an employee has been injured while at work, and the reason was that he or she did not understand the legal health and safety requirements, because they had not been explained in their own language, the employer would be liable to pay damages.

The responsibility of local councils

Local councils are in control of state schools in their area and this means that they need to ensure that all school-age children are educated. In the past councils employed teachers and ancillary staff from local ethnic minorities so that non-native speakers of English could learn the language. They did this in various ways, such as having English as a second language classes, rather than allowing non-native speaking students in mainstream classes. Alternatively, they employed bilingual assistants who co-taught classes with subject teachers.

Parents who are non-native speakers of English also face problems. Documents such as parental consent forms need to be translated so that parents understand what is happening in the school. If the school is to be closed for a day because of a training session, parents need to be informed. Using the services of a language translation agency can be cost-effective and extremely useful. Every parent should have access to the same information.

Schools should not ask parents or other non-professionals to translate documents or other materials so that costs are cut. There is often no way for the school to check the language use in a translated document. Only a professional from a language translation agency could do this.

Some local authorities have a department that deals in translations for local ethnic minorities. This is an efficient way of coping with the demands of communities in their area. However, if there is a sudden influx of refugees from a different ethnic group, because of famine or conflict, there would be a need for more staff who spoke the appropriate language(s). This, of course could be problematic. To fill the gap in the interim, a language translation agency could be hired.

Health services, hospitals and doctor’s surgeries also must have material translated into languages other than English. Parents, especially new mothers, need to be aware of infant immunisation programmes.

Non-governmental organisations also need translators

Charities and other non-governmental organisations also need materials translated into the various local languages, so that everyone has access to their services. After all, we live in a democratic society. International aid agencies also have to employ interpreters and translators. Sometimes in emergency situations, they resort to using untrained volunteers to help, but this is far from an ideal situation.

In most areas with an ethnically diverse population the local council will have a register of interpreters from the local community who can help when there are language difficulties. However, it is not always clear whether or not the people listed on the register are professional interpreters or translators.

Using untrained translators and interpreters can lead to problems. When people need such services, they can be because of personal matters. An untrained interpreter would arouse suspicion because of the confidential nature of an encounter. For example, if a stranger, or even an acquaintance, escorted a woman to the doctor’s they would have personal information which might be gossiped about later. On the other hand, professionals are bound by an ethical code. They do not divulge privileged and personal information.

Employing the services of a language translation agency may be expensive, but it is the best way of ensuring confidentiality.