Starting out with proper consultation can save you time and money by helping to identify the range of languages spoken in the workplace as well as employees’ preferred modes and forms of communication.
One way to do this for new workers is to collect the information during induction. This process can also help you identify employees who are bilingual and may be able to help you communicate with staff whose English skills are limited.
Questions should focus on language skills rather than nationality or place of birth and should be based on self-assessment. Employers should always seek permission in recording this information, and if an employee chooses not to provide this information, this preference should be recorded.
Language profiling should only take place once the employee has been engaged. You should always explain why the information is being collected and how it will be used.
Under the OHS Act, employers must consult with employees when identifying and assessing hazards or risks, and when making decisions about risk control. Therefore, you must ensure that there are appropriate arrangements in place to consult employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
‘Employees’ includes independent contractors (and any employees of the independent contractor/s) who perform work which the employer has, or should have, control over.
If employees are represented by health and safety representatives (HSRs), the consultation must involve those representatives. If your employees, or their HSRs, do not have strong English skills, you must ensure you consult them in a way that is effective and meaningful.
More on consultation