Lidl Polish-gate inquiry

Lidl has launched an investigation at its branch in Kirkcaldy.Pic Greg Macvean
Lidl has launched an investigation at its branch in Kirkcaldy.Pic Greg Macvean

Public outcry following complaints by Kirkcaldy branch staff

An investigation into Polish workers’ claims of discrimation at Lidl’s in Kirkcaldy has been launched by the supermarket firm.

It follows staff complaints that they had been ordered by bosses to stop speaking Polish to each other during break time - and to Polish customers on the shop floor.

The controversy - which broke in the Press last week - gathered critical reaction across the UK and in Poland.

A Lidl worker previously said: “I tried to explain to the manager that many customers who do not speak English correctly come to our shop just because they know there is a Polish service at the cash desk, bakery and shop floor as well.

“The manager became irritated and told me to carry out his orders. If I am not able to accept them, I should be free to leave for home.”

Kirkcaldy staff said the rule was enacted from mid- September.

The Press approached Lidl and asked for its policy, to which Lidl replied it was the firm’s UK company policy that “staff speak in English to customers at all times, irrespective of nationality.

“This is for the benefit of all our customers as well as our staff and is clearly stipulated in the employee handbook, which each member of staff receives during their induction.”

The company also “required employees to follow instructions given to them from their line manager.”

However, in an apparent U-turn three days later, Lidl said “it goes without saying” staff are able to assist a customer by conversing in their native tongue, if the customer is unable to speak any English.

Furthermore, staff could speak Polish during break time as long as discussion did not exclude English speaking colleagues.

Lidl also, in light of recent events, gave reassurance to staff, customers and the general public that it continually reviewed its policies and considered all feedback.

Speaking yesterday (Wednesday), a Lidl spokesman said: “I can confirm we are currently undertaking an investigation at this store [Kirkcaldy], however, as this is an internal matter we are unable to comment further.”

How the story ran...and ran

Newspapers who picked up on the FFP story included: The Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News, The Sun and the Daily Mail.

The story also ran on Polish TV, radio and print, prompting Poland’s Ambassador in London to write to Lidl seeking clarification on the matter.

Lidl’s apparent “English-only” rule also infuriated the people of Wales, leading to the involvement of the Welsh Languages Commissioner.