Translation is Essential When Onboarding ESL Employees

Do you have a system in place that makes all your company policies available to employees in their first language? The blogger over at All Language Alliance has some interesting news from the U.K. about what might happen if you don’t. Last year, an Irish company was ordered to compensate all foreign born employees 5,000 Euros each. The company failed to provide language translation of important employment documents (contracts and safety information) to all its foreign born employees.

Instead, HR only made translation services available on a selective basis. This opened the door to charges of discrimination. Workers who weren’t provided with information in their own language reasonably argued that they were at a disadvantage. This error ended up costing their employer a total of almost €300,000.

U.S. Rules

As an employer, you are aware of the need to post workplace notices like DOL posters in multiple languages. Spanish is the most common, but you shouldn’t discount other large ESL (English as a Second Language) populations. For example, the city of San Francisco mandates that various notices be distributed in Chinese as well as English and Spanish.

Are 5% or more of your workers most fluent in a language other than English? It might be prudent to takes steps to protect yourself by making sure translation is part of your normal HR process for communicating with employees. This is especially critical during onboarding, the point in time when the legal relationship between employer and employee is most defined.

An ESL employee may make a valid argument that he or she did not understand a policy even if you have a signed acknowledgement on file. If you make translated forms available to some but not all of your workers, this could also be viewed as discriminatory. Finally, there could be serious legal consequences if you don’t provide safety information in multiple languages and an employee is injured as a result.

How We Can Help

With Universal Onboarding from Emerald Software Group, new-hires can select their preferred language with ease. Multi-lingual data entry and forms generation helps protect you as an employer. This approach ensures that all your employees have equal access to the critical information in your onboarding system.

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