Commenting on the Government's decision to end free English language training to everyone except those on means-tested benefits and tax credits, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Being able to speak English is crucial if people are to be safe and treated well at work. Not only is it esential in terms of knowing how to do your job, workers also need to be able to communicate with their colleagues and understand important health and safety information.

Many vulnerable workers who don't yet speak fluent English will be let down by this decision. 'Workers who have a good command of the English language are also less likely to be treated badly at work. Individuals who don't speak enough English to understand about the minimum wage and working time rules for example are much more likely to be exploited by bad employers.

'We are worried that limiting access simply to those on benefits and tax credits will cause real problems for vulnerable workers. Applying for benefits requires an understanding of English, but this is exactly what many people living an working in the UK don't yet have.

A fairer way would be to give free language training to anyone who can show they are on a low wage or un-waged rather than making someone prove they are in receipt of benefits. 'If free language courses are to end, then the Government must do more to make employers meet the cost of training their employees. Sensible employers already realise the business benefits of having an English-speaking workforce. Ministers should get tough with bosses who are too mean to run free courses or who will now try to pass the costs onto their workers.'

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