Supermarket’s English language memo goes viral

Fresh group apologises for any offence caused by memo on using English in-store



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9 March 2015

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A memo instructing staff to speak English at all times at work, has led to the Fresh supermarket group finding itself at the centre of a controversy over the past week.

A copy of the memo, which was published on satirical website, received many comments on both that site and the group’s Facebook page.

Some negative comments accused the group of zenophobia and heavy-handedness, while others said they viewed it as a common sense policy which has been adopted in other companies.

Fresh, which employs 156 people from 20 different countries, had asked staff to speak English at work, even while on their rest breaks.

The memo which was found at the Grand Canal Dock store in Dublin, stated: “Fresh Opportunities Ltd. is very proud of its multicultural staff base, however the use of various languages on the shop floor has resulted in misunderstandings and some negative customer comments.”

Towards the end of the memo, the company added: “If you have difficulty with the English language and need to ask for a translation, that is ok, but we would ask that this be done as little as possible. We would also ask that this policy be applied during rest breaks.”

The circular then asked employees to be aware that any staff member who spoke another language “on the shop floor or while working” may become the “subject of disciplinary action”.

Noel Smith, founder and MD of the Fresh chain, subsequently issued a statement apologising for any offence caused by the memo. He admitted “mistakes” were made in the formulation and expression of the chain’s language policy, and said an updated approach had been devised together with employees. “We are encouraging our staff to speak English or Irish in the workplace and this doesn’t apply to rest periods,” Smith said.



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