European workers at a Sheffield factory have been told to speak in English at all times after bosses said employees speaking in their own languages were making other workers feel ‘isolated and intimidated’.
Concerns have been raised the recent introduction of the new policy at Orchid Orthopaedic Solutions on the Parkway Industrial Estate is ‘unfair and discriminatory’ and causing divisions between the firm’s Polish and Slovakian workers and English employees.
But the medical devices manufacturing firm says the suggestion is ‘simply a means to create harmony at work’ and anyone who did speak in a different language would not face any disciplinary action.
An upset English employee told the Star the new policy is rumoured to have been introduced after a staff member working with a team of Polish people complained about them speaking in their own language.
The source said people have been asked to sign new versions of the company’s ‘Toolbox Talk’ working rules including the new policy, which was introduced prior to the recent referendum vote.
The worker said: “There was a ruckus in the factory, all the Polish people were talking about how they feel discriminated against because they were being made to sign it.
“I feel the company has escalated the problem and turned a small situation into a big one rather than assessing the cause of the problem.
“If two Polish guys are conversing it’s going to be much quicker for them to get their job done, but they can’t do that anymore.
“There’s a lot of Polish and Slovakian workers and it’s them that’s it’s affecting - I find it unfair and discriminatory.”
But a spokesman for Orchid said: “We are a multi-cultural employer although English is obviously the common language.
“In the past we have had situations where individuals have felt isolated and intimidated when working alongside colleagues with different ethnic backgrounds who are speaking in their mother tongue.
“In order for the workforce to feel comfortable at work we ask that during working times everyone speaks English.
“This would not be considered a disciplinary issue but is simply a means to create harmony at work.”