Arts and crafts retailer HobbyCraft has been criticised for insisting that staff in its Staffordshire distribution centre speak only English.

Hobbycraft said it had installed the rule to “create a good working environment”. The retailer said the ability to speak English was part of its recruitment criteria and that disciplinary action could be taken against those who do not comply.

The Unite union lambasted the move, calling it “overbearing”.

Unite regional officer Rick Coyle told the BBC that staff already spoke English “to a very high standard” for most of the time. “This is a case of local management flexing its muscles,” he said.

HobbyCraft people director Chris Fenlon said: “Having the ability to speak English is part of the recruitment criteria in our distribution centre, therefore we do ask that during working hours in the warehouse colleagues speak English.

“However, within the social areas colleagues can speak all languages. This is to create a good working environment where all colleagues can communicate effectively.”

He added that disciplinary action is unlikely to be taken in the first instance.