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Commissioner investigates interference with use of Welsh language

Following an application from an individual, a recent investigation by the Welsh Language Commissioner has determined that Bupa Dental Care interfered with his freedom to use the Welsh language whilst he was working in one of the company’s dental practices.

The Commissioner determined that Bupa had interfered with his freedom by indicating in an email, and in a subsequent letter addressed to him, that he should not communicate in Welsh with other members of staff.

The reasons given by Bupa Dental Care for the interference were that it was necessary to avoid administrative errors and that the use of Welsh in this specific case constituted the individual breaching conditions in his employment agreement with Bupa.

The Commissioner was not of the opinion that there was justification to interfere with this individual’s freedom to communicate in Welsh with his colleagues, 

“I did not find any evidence to suggest that any errors occurred as a result of the individual’s or any other staff member’s use of the Welsh language. 

I did not find any evidence to suggest that the individual’s use of Welsh with staff corresponds to any breach in his work agreement.

The Welsh Language Measure gives official status to the Welsh language in Wales and gives people in Wales the freedom to live in a society where they can use Welsh freely in their personal life and in the workplace.

Bupa should therefore do more to acknowledge, respect and facilitate the use of the Welsh language between staff in the dental practices it maintains.

In addition, the Commissioner said in relation to the interferences,

“Wales is a bilingual country, which means that employers and staff should respect and acknowledge the fact that some individuals within the workplace may choose to communicate in Welsh with others at work.

Naturally, communications between people in Welsh are an intrinsic part of life in Wales. Therefore, people should not feel that the use of Welsh causes an unreasonable barrier or feel pressured to turn to English.

Bupa should be alert to the concept of having to conduct their business in Wales in a way that involves respecting the choice of staff to use Welsh with fellow members of staff. For this purpose, the company should consider adopting a policy on the use of Welsh in the workplaces that they maintain in Wales.

I would like to thank the individual for drawing my attention to this matter and I encourage anyone else who has experienced similar situations to contact us. I would also like to thank Bupa for its co-operation throughout the investigation.