Translating Safety in Your Workplace: Employee Handbooks

Let’s continue our blog series on workplace safety translation! As we mentioned in a previous post, employee handbooks are important tools for communication between an employer and their employees. They contain important information including (by not limited to) anti-discrimination policies, company policies, compensation, general policies and procedures, employee benefits, information technology, leave, safety and security.

Employee handbook translation can ensure that a multinational company or a domestic company with multilingual workers has all of this important information presented to them in their native language. Here are some best practices for employee handbook translation.

Why translate your employee handbooks?

Employee handbook translation allows you to present policies and procedures, including workplace safety, to your team in a language that they best understand. The number of foreign born workers in the United States has increased, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor. In 2014, they represented 16.5 percent of the labor force, which was an increase from 14.8 percent in 2014.

Translating your employee handbook shows your employees that you care about and respect them. This goes a long way in building positive company culture.

Of course, there are legal concerns as well. There was a sexual harassment case in Colorado (EEOC v. The Spud Seller, Inc. (DColo 2012) No. 10-cv-02381-MSK-KLM) that resulted in an employer being sued by nine Hispanic employees. The anti-sexual harassment policy (along with the rest of the employee handbook) were not printed in Spanish, only “explained.” This was a costly mistake for this company.

In the context of workplace safety, it is duly important to provide this information to ensure that employees are safe. Providing content to them in their native language ensures that they can read and understand important safety policies, procedures, and protocol.

What are some best practices?

Consistent language is important. Employee handbooks help to bring uniformity across your company or organization. How do you ensure that your message stays the same in another language?

First, take a look at your English content. Is your message consistent? We suggest a full analysis of your English content. There are many different ways to say the same thing. Establishing consistency in English will lead to consistency with the translation. Your language service provider can help you establish this consistency with your English before translation even happens! In addition, most translation companies are able to leverage translation memory for repetitive content which results in consistency, cost savings, and efficiencies with turnaround time.

Second, look at your content again. If you’re a multinational company, you’ll want to make sure that your employee handbook complies with local laws. For great resources on employee handbooks, we recommend these two articles:

  • “Global Employee Handbooks Must Balance Compliance with Culture” by Steven Hirschfeld, SHRM.org
  • “Employee Handbook: Do’s and Don’ts” by Rhucha Kulkarni, HR Technologist

When translating your employee handbook, your language service provider will use an in-country native speaker who will have knowledge of corporate policy and human resources along with the language.

Related posts:

Translating Safety in Your Workplace: Getting Started

Translating Safety in Your Workplace: SDS Translation

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