UK: Bosses may have to pay for migrants' English

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Jun 10 15:39:45 UTC 2007

Bosses may pay for migrants' English
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:55am BST 10/06/2007

  Employers will be told to pay for language lessons for immigrant workers
who have a poor grasp of English, under proposals to be unveiled this week.
    [image: Woman looking at Union Flag postcards: Bosses may pay for
migrants' English]  At least 630,000 east Europeans have come to this
country since European Union enlargement in 2004

The Government-appointed commission to improve the integration of ethnic
groups will conclude that it is vital that everyone settling in Britain
should be able to speak English. Too many groups rely on their native
languages and are consequently uncomfortable with public services and people
outside their community, its report is set to say. The Commission on
Integration and Cohesion, which was promised by Tony Blair in the wake of
the July 7 bombings in 2005, says that moves to prevent immigrants from
being marginalised will help to ease racial tensions and fight the appeal of
extremist ideologies.

As the rate of overseas settlement in Britain runs at its highest ever, the
commission will argue that many new immigrants are too poor to afford
tuition and should have the costs covered by their employers. That would
greatly improve their ability to contribute to society and would bring
long-term benefits to cohesion in Britain, its report will suggest. Although
the recommendations are only advisory, it is likely that they will be
rubber-stamped by the Government in a move that would bring ministers into
confrontation with business leaders. They will be angry at being told in
effect to pay for the social costs of the July 7 bombings and Labour's
immigration policies. A source close to the commission told The Sunday
Telegraph: "If an employer benefits from having workers who happen to have a
poor grasp of the language it makes sense that they should do more to help
 It would cost about £600 to send an employee on an 18-week course to study
English as a foreign language at a college of further education. Smaller
businesses would struggle to pay, employers say. "Some employers would
simply not be able to afford to provide English classes, and in some
circumstances they wouldn't be appropriate or necessary," said a spokesman
for the CBI. "Such measures may only serve to prevent immigrants from
finding employment." Stephen Alambritis, a spokesman for the Federation of
Small Businesses, said: "This kind of proposal could breed -resentment in
small businesses as it seems to be encouraging discrimination by giving
preferential treatment to immigrant workers. I'd like to see small
businesses exempt from this, as many do not have the funds or resources to
cover this kind of policy." There are 4.3 million small businesses in
Britain, the vast majority employing fewer than nine workers.

The report will be issued only days after the launch of policies to make it
harder to gain British citizenship and to train unemployed workers for jobs
now being filled by immigrants. The commission says the language barrier
must be tackled to prevent newly arrived families from perpetuating the
isolation of communities where English is hardly spoken. "People coming to
this country need to be helped to raise their level of language," said an
insider. "We found that to be the major barrier to their being able to
integrate. If they can't communicate it entrenches a ghetto mentality. We
need to give them the chance to break out of that."

At least 630,000 east Europeans have come to this country since European
Union enlargement in 2004 and more than 150,000 immigrants were given a
passport last year, four times the number in 1997. Official figures show
that at least half the children in more than 1,000 -primary schools in
England do not have English as their first language. he commission reached
its conclusions after consulting employers already providing free language
lessons in the workplace and enabling their staff to sit Cambridge ESOL
exams in English. The commission will suggest that if big business takes a
lead in teaching employees English, others will be encouraged to follow.
However, it will also acknowledge that many migrants will not be staying
long enough to learn the language and should be given help with translation.

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