A number of complaints submitted by the public, together with evidence collected by the Commissioner's staff when carrying out surveys, suggested that a significant proportion of staff at Wales’ health boards did not have a good understanding of the requirements of the Welsh language standards, and that some had a negative attitude towards providing Welsh language services.
This raised concerns that several health boards could be breaching the Welsh Language Standards relating to staff training (standards 102 and 103). As a result, the Commissioner opened several investigations into these matters.
Standards 102 and 103 have been placed on all health boards.
They must provide training courses for their staff in order to develop their awareness of the Welsh language, including awareness of the history of the language and its place in Welsh culture. This may include giving information about the origin of the Welsh language, facts about the Welsh language and the benefits of using the Welsh language.
In order to develop an understanding of the duty to offer services in accordance with Welsh language standards, the boards are expected to inform their staff of the exact standards that must be complied with, and information about the Welsh Language Measure and its objectives.
In order to develop an understanding of how the Welsh language is used in the workplace, staff are expected to receive information about how the organisation promotes and facilitates the use of the Welsh language in the workplace, and information about the rights that staff have under the operational standards.
In addition, information must be given to new staff (for example as part of an induction process), in order to raise their awareness of the Welsh language. This can happen through training or in the form of a document.
It became clear from the investigations that some organisations are under the impression that the requirement to provide training only applies to 'new staff' (namely those who have been employed since the standard came into force). This means that only new members of staff received the training, and that staff who had been employed before the standard became operational had not.
The investigations have confirmed that the standard makes it a mandatory requirement, and is not optional, for the health boards to train all members of staff, rather than a proportion of staff.
Some organisations had been interpreting the standard to mean that the organisation had discretion to offer the training, and that staff also had discretion to decide whether or not to attend. This is not a correct interpretation of the requirements, and constitutes a failure to comply with standard 102.
In considering Standard 103, the investigation confirmed that the organisations ar only under a duty to provide information to raise their awareness of the Welsh language to 'new staff'. However, the investigation showed that not all ‘new staff’ received information. This was a failure to comply with Standard 103.
How to comply
- Provide staff training to all members of staff, rather than to proportion of staff, in the following areas:
- awareness of the Welsh language
- the duty to act in accordance with the Welsh language standards
- how Welsh can be used in the workplace
- Ensure that there is an understanding among staff and managers that attending training provided is mandatory and not optional.
- Provide information to all new members of staff, rather than to a proportion of staff, to raise their awareness of the Welsh language.
This matter is relevant to standards 102 and 103 of the Welsh Language Standards Regulations - Number 7.