Why I will not work for Language Empire

I have just asked to be removed from Language Empire's database of interpreters. This is why.

When I returned to interpreting at the end of last year my colleagues in the area were already unpaid by Language Empire to the tune of certainly hundreds and often thousands of pounds each. Having just returned I was yet to be let down by them and so began tentatively accepting jobs.

On January 4th they confirmed with me by text my quoted fee for a job. The LE system then sends all of their terms to the interpreter as a last word and obliges you to download a complicated job sheet, administered by somebody other than the person who sent the confirmatory text. That job sheet quoted the wrong fee. I worked the job and submitted my invoice. LE finance replied to say thanks for the invoice, and this is the fee. The fee was theirs and not what was agreed. I objected via their online portal and heard nothing back. Nor was I paid.

The same thing happened with all four of the jobs I subsequently agreed to. Confirmation of the fee was always laborious to secure and then they would try to do it verbally on the phone and at best by text. The job sheets were always wrong, the invoice confirmation was always wrong and I always queried it and never heard back. By this time my 30-day payment terms were exceeded and I stopped accepting work from them until paid.

They did not pay. Language Empire owed me £664.20.

I sent them two red invoices which resulted in a payment remittance being sent, which contained a list of fees and mileages which were different to that they had agreed to, but which totalled nearly what was owed and so I was cautiously appeased.

Except the payment was not made.

I received reassurance that it was being paid the day I queried it, but it was not. The remittance said the payment may take up to seven days, so I waited until then and checked. No payment, despite reassurance that it had been paid.

So I wrote formally on February 26th (sent by email) threatening court if the money owed was not paid within two weeks. It was paid in one hour.

Then I left it to let the anger subside.

Last week I bit the bullet and stepped up for two assignments for which I was available. LE had offered "14-day payment terms on all jobs" and I offered to work the assignments if and only if they could send me Job Sheets for each job with the correct fee documented on it. They did not. They sent the familiar nonsense with seemingly random values scattered across them and their normal terms and conditions. So I queried them, reminding LE that I was not confirmed until the Job Sheets were correct. They emailed to say my fee would be honoured, but the Job Sheets were still wrong. I said I would work the jobs if the sheets clearly documented what had been agreed. I heard nothing in return. So this week I emailed to remind them that I was not confirmed for these jobs since I worried that they might erroneously consider me booked. They did. I explained why not, and they said they had emailed a promise to honour the fee (but presumably not read my reply to that). They sent me a cut-and-paste table from their financial system for my fee, which stated mileage I had not agreed to and a fee I had not agreed to, which did not add up to the total given, although the total was what my fee had been quoted as. Their system not clearly adding up was troubling. 

I said clearly again that I needed correct Job Sheets and then I will be confirmed. I was a bit swearier than that. I have not heard back.

I have given up. I believe I have tried my best but my every encounter with Language Empire has been arduous, Kafkaesque, and deeply deeply suspicious. I do not believe they have any intention of providing registered interpreters to the publicly funded NHS that has shackled itself to a 'provider' that cannot provide.

I believe Language Empire to be fundamentally and utterly failing in its duty to provide quality interpreting to the Deaf Community. However, this does not in my opinion absolve NHS England from its Equality Act duties to ensure its services are accessible to Deaf people. I do not know what the contract stipulates from either party, but it ought to allow for early abandonment of it if the provider does not provide. Why would it not do that? If the contract legally binds NHS England to a provider that does not provide then it should default upon it.

I am available to any GP, dentist, or hospital trust who wishes to book me. I am a good interpreter. I have a lot of availability. My rates are exactly NUBSLI rates. GPs, dentists, and hospital trusts have a duty to be accessible. PALS have a duty to ensure they are so at a local level. I think that HealthWatch have a duty to make sure that they are accessible on a regional level, and that the NHS Ombudsman has a duty to make sure that they are accessible nationally. Failing or ill-conceived contracts notwithstanding.

Not only are Deaf people receiving consultations and treatment with no or poor interpretation, the interpreters' reputations are suffering as a result.

NHS England please sort this out. If I can do anything to help, let me know and I will do it.

But I will not work for Language Empire.

Jim Cromwell