New Language Requirements Applicable to Workplace Communications by Employers in Indonesia

On 9 July 2009 a new law came into effect in Indonesia which will have a significant impact upon the way in which foreign companies with operations in Indonesia communicate in the workplace and document their employment arrangements.

Law number 24 of 2009 on National Flag, Language, State Symbol and Anthem relevantly requires that:

  • All agreements involving an Indonesian private institution or individual must be in the Indonesian language. If a foreign party is involved, the agreement must also to be prepared in the national language of that party or in English (or both);
  • The Indonesian language must be used in all formal communications in the workplace; and
  • If an employee working in Indonesia is unable to communicate in the Indonesian language, they must enrol, or be enrolled, in an Indonesian language course.

At this stage, it is unclear how strictly the new law will be enforced by the authorities. A Presidential Regulation is expected to be issued to clarify the law's requirements. In the interests of compliance with the law, multi-national employers with operations in Indonesia may wish to take appropriate steps, including:

  1. Checking that all contracts of employment with existing employees, both local and foreign, signed after 9 July 2009 are in the Indonesian language and, where appropriate, in bilingual version. Where this is not the case, new versions of contracts in the appropriate language(s) should be prepared as soon as possible.
  2. Ensuring that contract templates to be used for local and foreign employees moving forward are in the Indonesian language and, where appropriate, in bilingual versions.
  3. Ensuring that a process is in place for all formal communications in the workplace (e.g., letters of promotion, warning letters, mutual agreements to terminate employment) to be in the Indonesian language or, where appropriate, in bilingual versions.
  4. Ensuring that all existing employees working in Indonesia are able to communicate in the Indonesian language and, if not, to enrol those employees in a language course.
  5. Implementing a process as part of new employee transfers/assignments into Indonesia to ensure that employees who cannot communicate in Indonesian are enrolled in a language course.

This entry was written by Celia Yuen, Singapore.

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