Probe into Swedish-only workplace idea

Sweden’s Ombudsman Against Ethnic Discrimination (DO) will examine proposals in both Enköping and Uppsala municipalities forbidding employees from speaking any other language than Swedish on the job.

Probe into Swedish-only workplace idea

The language ban in Enköping appears in a proposal submitted to the municipality’s executive board as a part of the ongoing implementation of a diversity plan. The proposal states that employees of Enköping municipality may not speak anything other than Swedish during the work day.

“This seems to be a tremendously disparaging idea. I find it extremely troubling,” said Discrimination Ombudsman Katri Linn.

“There are instances when there is a rationale for requiring Swedish in the workplace, but it is unacceptable to issue a general prohibition [against other languages],” added Linn.

According to DO, a similar ban exists in Uppsala municipality in an agreement crafted with the involvement of trade union SKTF.

Kent Lyckstedt, human resources officer for Enköping municipality disagrees with the suggestion that the county is moving toward a ban on languages other than Swedish.

“This isn’t something that has reached the level of a formal proposal; rather it’s more of a preliminary investigation,” he said. “It’s not a question of a prohibition. The starting point is to ensure that people communicate in a way that doesn’t affect [the county’s] activities.”

Lyckstedt pointed to increased risks if municipality employees don’t have an adequate command of Swedish. If warning labels on chemicals used by cleaning crews aren’t fully understood, for example, “dangerous things can happen.”

According to DO’s website, Linn plans to take up the matter with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.