Tag Archives: Law

‘Native speaker only’ ads illegal in the EU

Those who’ve been following my posts regularly, might have noticed that I’ve quite strongly voiced my discontent, outrage and frustration at TEFL job ads which demand the applicants to be native speakers. If you’re not one, don’t bother applying. You might have a PhD in English Studies and 100 years of teaching experience, but no one will even glance at your CV. Your un-English sounding name and your passport make you unfit for the job, I’m afraid. I described the problem and discussed its negative effects on the industry in a previous post which you can read here.I’ve also recently set up another blog, TEFL Equity Advocates, devoted to fighting unequal hiring and employment policies in the TEFL industry. I invite you to visit it, subscribe and help us fight for equality.

In a nutshell, the practice of hiring only NESTs (Native Speaker English Teacher) is so widespread and deeply entrenched within the industry that most of don’t even notice it. And if we do, we might just shrug our shoulders either in despair or indifference. But inaction is the worst form of action!

Whenever I go on tefl.com and look at countries like Spain, Italy, Korea, Japan, where almost 100% of all job ads are for NESTs only, I am filled with rage. And an urge to act!

Below I reblog my post from TEFL Equity Advocates blog, which you can access here.Common sense and gut feeling tell most of us that such ads are a clear case of discrimination. Same as any other type of discrimination, such as based on gender, race or ethnicity. But gut feeling is only just that, and can only get you so far. Have you ever wondered, though, whether such ads were legal?

I have. And I went where most people in doubt go to (no, not the psychologist or a psychic): I googled it! To narrow my scope, I focused on the European Union. Very quickly google told me that the law had the same gut feeling as I did.
Here are some of the things I found:
  • Article 21 of EU basic rights reads as follows (highlighted by me):

1. Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.

2. Within the scope of application of the Treaties and without prejudice to any of their specific provisions, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.

This just confirms what we all know. Discrimination against race and nationality is illegal in the EU. My gut feeling was telling me that non-native speakers were being discriminated against on the basis of their language, birth and ethnic origin.
Let’s delve deeper and see what gems EU law holds for us in store.
  • German MEP Jo Leinen asked the European Commission whether the words “native speaker” could be used in a job advertisement. On 23 May 2003 the EC ruled the following:

In its answer to Question E-0941 the commission states that the term native speaker is not acceptable, under any circumstance, under community law. The Commission also states its intention of continuing to use its powers to fight against any discrimination caused by a requirement for native speaker knowledge in job advertisements.

If that was not enough to convince you, continue reading.

  • A Commission Communication of 11 December 2002 on ‘Free movement of workers – achieving the full benefits and potential’ (COM (2002) 694 final) when asked about language requirements for particular jobs stated that:

the language requirement must be reasonable and necessary for the job in question and must not be used to exclude workers, so that advertisements requiring a particular language as a ‘mother tongue’ are not acceptable.

More on recruitment rights here: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/guidance-for-employers-pre-october-10/areas-of-responsibility/recruitment-and-job-advertisements/

All this means that employers are only allowed to ask for native-like competence in a given language, which on CEFR is C2, but not for a mother tongue.

In the UK and in the Netherlands some language schools have been taken to court for refusing to employ NNESTs (Non-native Speaker English Teacher). And guess what? They all lost!

What does this mean for you as an aspiring NNEST?

That it’s high time you got angry and acted. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Don’t be discouraged if you see a NEST only ad. Stand up for your rights and make your voice heard. The law is on your side so use it.

Not to say that you have to take somebody to court right away, but politely informing the language school they are breaking the law might just do the trick. I’ve done so on numerous occasions. More often than not, schools are quite eager to listen to persuasive arguments and are willing to change their ads and recruitment policies.

Also visit TEFL Equity Advocates blog and help us fight together against the discrimination.

What if I’m a NEST? Why would I bother doing anything?

Because your help is vital. Your school might not only be choosing teachers based on nationality, rather than their qualifications and experience, but also breaking the law. You might be doing them a big favour by informing them about it. If you’ve always felt that native speakers only ads were unfair, that teachers should be valued on the basis of their qualifications, then it’s your chance to do something about it by joining the movement. Find out more about how you can get involved here.

Footnote: I’ve only described the law in the EU and I’m not sure what it’s like outside the community. However, this is where you can come in. Investigate what the law says about it in your country. Consult an anti-discrimination organisation. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Let’s be pro-active!