Welsh at work

  • Welsh is an official language of Wales and some organisations have to meet standards to make sure their services are available in Welsh
  • If you don’t speak Welsh, you may find that you can’t apply for some jobs (or you can apply but won’t be selected)
  • Even if your job doesn’t require you to speak Welsh, you should be able to speak Welsh at work with others who speak Welsh
What rights do I have about the language I speak at work?

All children and young people have the right to use the language of their family – even if these aren’t shared by the majority of the population where you live. This applies to Welsh – and to English – in Wales. It will also apply to other languages spoken by people who have come to Wales from other parts of the world. You shouldn’t be prevented from speaking Welsh at work, or be treated unfairly because you speak Welsh, at work.

Do I have to speak Welsh at work in Wales?

Welsh is an official language in Wales, as well as English. The Welsh Government has made it a priority to increase the number of Welsh-speakers in Wales generally, and to help organisations develop a bilingual workforce. Public sector organisations like central government and local authorities, police and fire services have to follow certain standards for the use of Welsh at work. These organisations have to have a scheme in place to explain which services they will provide in Welsh, and how and when they will do so. This has been in place since 1993. For organisations to provide services in Welsh, they need to employ people who speak Welsh.

If you don’t speak Welsh, and your job doesn’t need you to speak Welsh, your employer might offer you opportunities to learn Welsh and encourage you to speak Welsh at work.

Can I be refused a job because I don’t speak Welsh?

Although you can’t be refused a job because you are not Welsh, you could be refused a job if you don’t speak Welsh. Organisations can say that it is essential, or desirable that someone speaks Welsh for a particular job, even if that means that it is harder for someone who is not Welsh to get the job, as long as this can be justified for that job. This will depend on the job – what is involved and where the job is based. If the employer has analysed the job properly and come to the conclusion that a Welsh speaker is essential (or desirable) in a post, you probably won’t be able to complain about it.

Can I be treated unfairly at work because I speak Welsh (or because I don’t speak Welsh)?

You have the freedom to use Welsh with others in Wales. Even if your work doesn’t require you to speak Welsh, you should be able to speak Welsh with others at work. In Wales, if you are treated unfairly because you speak Welsh at work by other people who are also Welsh, it could be seen as bullying or unfair treatment. If you are not Welsh and you are treated unfairly because you don’t speak Welsh, this could be race discrimination as well as bullying.

What happens if I’m being treated unfairly because I’m speaking a language that isn’t Welsh?

Your employer can make it a requirement of your job to speak Welsh if it’s appropriate for the job you are doing. While you may have to speak Welsh while you are doing your job – perhaps if you are working with other Welsh speakers on a work task, this would be OK. If you are treated unfairly and differently for speaking your own language (not Welsh) with someone else at work when you aren’t doing a work task, this could be discrimination.