Translating Employee Handbooks for Non-English Speakers

May 14, 2019 • Karen Dooley

Translating Employee Handbooks for Non-English Speakers

Q: Are we required to translate our employee handbook into other languages for employees that are not literate in English?

A: There’s no requirement to translate your employee handbook into other languages for non-English speakers. However, you do need to make sure employees who aren’t literate in English understand important information included in the employee handbook (e.g., grievance procedures, how to report harassment, drug-free workplace rules, and reporting absences).

If a large portion of a district’s employee population speak and read another language, districts with access to translation services may opt to translate their employee handbook.

Some HR department administrators choose to conduct HR updates each year and provide staff an overview of the employee handbook including changes. Conducting these updates in English and another language can help bring clarity for those who aren’t literate in English. These sessions could be run concurrently or in addition to an English presentation.

Using the translator option on the district website also may be helpful. Although it typically will not translate the employee handbook, it may translate individual components. Placing the most crucial portions of the handbook, as listed above, individually on the website, would provide the non-English speaking employees access to important information. Communicating and demonstrating this process in the HR update could also be helpful.

Tagged: "Employee handbook", "English as a Second Language"