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Under the Racial Discrimination Act, treating someone differently because of the language that they speak may be against the law in some circumstances. Discriminating against someone on the basis of their race or ethnic origin is against the law, and language may be directly linked to ethnic background.

Example: Two employees were speaking to each other in the lunchroom in their first language, which was not English. The manager asked them to stop speaking in their first language and said that staff had to speak English at all times. This could be racial discrimination.

Employers should clearly state in a job description the essential skills required for the job for example, ‘high level spoken English’, rather than discriminating based on factors linked to race, such as language.