Lidl performs U-turn over Polish language ban

Lidl came under fire last week amid claims they had instructed staff at their Kirkcaldy store to only speak English. Picture: Greg Macvean
Lidl came under fire last week amid claims they had instructed staff at their Kirkcaldy store to only speak English. Picture: Greg Macvean
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LIDL has performed a U-turn over its controversial ban on Polish staff speaking their own language.

The discount supermarket chain came under fire last week amid allegations that they had instructed their staff at a store in Kirkcaldy, Fife, always to speak English - even to Polish customers.

A statement issued from the supermarket at the time clarified that company policy was for staff to “speak in English to customers at all times, regardless of nationality”.

But a week later they have confirmed having a change of heart.

A letter written to Witold Sobkow, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in London, indicates that Lidl now “encourages” members of staff to use their language skills to assist customers.

It says: “We do not have a ban in place preventing our staff from answering customers in the language they have been addressed, if of course they are able to do so.

“As a business operating internationally and in the UK, Lidl UK absolutely respects and embraces all languages and we certainly agree that it is a great asset for us to have such a multilingual workforce.

“During breaks staff members are naturally welcome to converse in their language of choice, and this has never not been the case. We have always asked however that Lidl staff always consider their colleagues who may be sharing welfare areas at the same time.”

Lidl also confirmed that they will be updating the wording contained within their Employee Handbook, and apologised for any confusion caused.

Last week the company policy sparked outrage amongst Polish communities, with hundreds signing a petition.

Arthur Krolczyk, a polish national living in Kirkcaldy, described the policy as “one of the most ridiculous ideas” he had ever heard of.

He said: “As a citizen of this country I feel insulted by the management of this shop.

“As a businessman I always thought that being able to communicate in another language would help to serve a wider group of clients and be seen as an advantage and not something to be forbidden.

“I will not buy anything else from Lidl in the future. How can they expect me to speak to my friends in anything other than our mother language?”

His reaction to the letter, which was posted on the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London’s Facebook page, was jubilant.

He wrote: “This result is what matters to us. Congratulations to all involved.”

Paulina Waszkiewicz commented: “A round of applause for Mr Ambassador.”

Lidl UK has also confirmed that they are undertaking investigations at the Kirkcaldy store into the allegations made last week.