Support your culturally and linguistically diverse workforce

How to support the health, safety and wellbeing of your culturally and linguistically diverse workers.



How this helps your business

We are proud to recognise and acknowledge all Aboriginal people as Australia's first peoples and their contribution to the identity and multicultural society which we all enjoy today. From the traditional Aboriginal custodians, European settlers, immigrants and newly arrived Australians from all over the world, Victoria is home to one of the most culturally diverse societies in the world, and is also among the fastest-growing and most diverse states in Australia.

Culturally safe workplaces and meaningful employment can help protect culturally and linguistically diverse workers from mental injury and contribute to improved business performance.

Workplaces may also have workers whose preferred language is not English and whose knowledge of English may be limited.

Key stats and facts

Step 1: Learn more on this topic

Who are Victorian CALD workers?

Workers from multicultural backgrounds include:

  • newly arrived skilled migrants
  • international students
  • seasonal workers
  • refugee/humanitarian entrants
  • first and second generation migrants

What does a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) workplace look like?

Having employees who:

  • are from different countries, including other English-speaking countries
  • have different cultural backgrounds
  • can speak other languages besides English
  • follow different religions, traditions, values and beliefs
  • have work experiences, skill set and understanding of workplace culture, health and safety from their country of origin

Step 2: Support workplace diversity

It is important to understand the cultural and linguistic composition of your organisation, so that you can support your workers in creating a safe and mentally healthy workplace.

Recognise that workers come from different cultural backgrounds, beliefs, understanding and experiences, including workplace experience. Create opportunities to include their opinions, experiences and understandings in shaping a positive and healthy workplace culture where they can feel safe, included and valued.

As a workplace leader you can implement some simple strategies:

  • Capture data on workplace diversity as part of your employee on boarding process or through an employee survey to further understand the culture diversity and backgrounds of your workforce. It is important to explain to your employees why the information is being collected and how it will be used.
  • Develop workplace policies and training that promote cross-cultural awareness.
  • Hold lunches and events that celebrate special days of cultural and religious significance of employees, encouraging employees to share their cultures and experiences.
  • Set up mentoring arrangements that match employees from different backgrounds, to encourage open communication.

Step 3: Update your resources and processes

Due to significant barriers in the workplace, CALD workers are at higher risk of being physically or mentally injured.

Risks can be minimised if you have the right practices in place, such as:

  • well developed and communicated recruitment, induction and training processes
  • language or cultural barriers that may impact communication in your organisation are identified, and steps taken to address them.
  • translating information to make it clear what the employees’ roles and responsibilities are.

Translating information into other languages is important for workplaces where different languages are spoken for a large proportion of the workforce. This will ensure that the information is delivered in a way that everyone understands and the message is getting across.

An example of how this can be done is shown in the card below, 'Workplace safety is our common language'. WorkSafe Victoria's health and safety guidance material has been translated into 20 different languages.

Translating training materials is an important practice but in order for them to be effective they may be accompanied by additional training methods, such as:

  • pictograms - this involves providing illustrations or images
  • audio-visual materials - using video to deliver the message
  • demonstrations - physically stepping through and showing the ‘how to’
  • experiential learning - this method encourages workers to practice job skills and provides opportunities for the trainer to offer feedback
  • visual colour-coding - is another way to communicate the importance of the steps, ie high risk in red
  • having materials available in plain, simple English

Step 4: Encourage good communication

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse workers may face challenges in speaking up about workplace health and safety issues or understanding what their rights and obligations are in relation to health and safety in the workplace.

As we touched on in Step 3 it is important to deliver information in a way that everyone understands. It is also a requirement under the OHS Act that employers provide appropriate training and supervision of all employees to ensure their work is done safely and their health is not put at risk, along with being able to identify hazards and report risks in the workplace. To do this effectively, you must be aware of any language or cultural barriers that may impact communication in your organisation, and you must take steps to address them.

WorkSafe have developed a safety guide below that provides a 4 step approach in communicating about health and safety to CALD workers.

  1. CONSULT- You should gather information on workers; preferred languages and language skills.
  2. FIND- Employers should establish what information they need to communicate and how to communicate it so that everyone understands.
  3. FIX- Employers should give health and safety information through face-to-face discussions, supported by visual signs and diagrams. Employers may arrange for interpreters or bilingual workers to deliver safety information, or have information and signs translated.
  4. REVIEW- Employers should ensure CALD workers understand by asking questions. They should regularly review processes for communicating with CALD workers.

WorkSafe Victoria's work-related factors page has been translated into other languages and is a great tool to help employers and workers understand the work-related stressors that can lead to physical injury, mental injury or even both at the same time.

Step 5: Review and keep improving

Once you have implemented your initiatives to provide greater support to your CALD workers you then need to do a review to see how they are going, what is effective and what may need to be done differently. Gaining feedback from all employees is a crucial part of the ongoing improvement and success of your initiatives.

Reviewing your HR data along with your recent claims is also another way to gauge how effective your strategies have been. How successful has the on-boarding and information sharing of your CALD workers been and has there been a drop in the number of injuries/claims relating to your CALD workers?

Use the following resource from Guarding Minds at Work to help evaluate your strategies.

More resources

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.