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Woke freedom of speech row erupts as workplaces set to ban huge list of words

An inclusive language guide enforced by Staffordshire Police discourages the term “policeman” in the latest “woke” restriction on freedom of speech, it has been claimed.

The guidance urges, “we word our content to avoid masculine and feminine pronouns (‘he’ or ‘she’).” with gender-neutral language “preferred”.

The 12-page document is the latest in a spate of similar guides being distributed by organisations to employees.

In an attempt to “cleanse” language, the series of new guides have been accused of “virtue signalling” and sparked fury among those who see it as a restriction on freedom of speech.

The 12-page guide was issued by Staffordshire PoliceFacebook

Cathy Hastie, a HR expert and lecturer at the University of Derby, said the documents are an acknowledgement that striving for diversity within workplaces isn’t enough.

“People need to feel included – meaning valued, accepted and supported – once they’ve got the job,” she told The Telegraph.

“Research shows language plays a critical part in that; in retaining people, in their productivity and in overall organisational effectiveness. There’s a moral argument, and also a business one.”

Elsewhere in the Staffordshire Police inclusion report, employees are reminded of “people-first language”.


Staff are encouraged to put a person first, not their disability or other characteristics with words such as “diabetic person” and “mentally ill” to be avoided and “person with diabetes” and “person with mental health problems” to be used instead.

While Christians should be replaced by “Christian people” and the use of “Christian name” is non-inclusive.

Similarly in the Oxfam Inclusive Language Guide urges employees to avoid the word “headquarters”, as it “implies a colonial power dynamic” and “aid sector” which “cements ideology where an agent with resources gives support on a charitable basis.”

Other phrases such as “migration challenge” and “refugee crisis” should not be used and “migration as a complex phenomenon” is encouraged instead.

Similarly in the Oxfam Inclusive Language Guide urges employees to avoid the word ‘headquarters’, as it ‘implies a colonial power dynamic’


Dr Laura Bailey, senior lecturer in English language and linguistics at the University of Kent said: “It should be about trying to listen to and understand different perspectives and do whatever we can to avoid offending people, acknowledging that we won’t get it right every time.

“We’re not censoring people, just encouraging people to learn and be considerate.

“If we look at workplaces over the past few decades, change has been slow – we’re still far from where we need to be on issues such as the gender pay gap. So perhaps we need to speed up.”

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