Court interpreters have raised a long list of grievances with language services contractor thebigword after claiming a new booking system has made their lives difficult.

According to the document, seen by the Gazette, once a job is accepted it disappears from the app, leaving interpreters without access to critical information. Interpreters often find themselves in court without a timesheet, reference number, or knowing where they need to go. A ‘confusing’ interface makes it difficult to distinguish between booked jobs and offers.

Interpreters say remote assignments lack timesheets, making critical information about job timings and details difficult to obtain. Cancellations are misclassified as curtailments, affecting interpreters’ income. Distance calculations and payments are inaccurate, and the app appears to be draining phone batteries.

‘We strongly request that, rather than delivering a downgrade that wasn't properly tested before launch, improvements be made to the current app to mirror and include the previous features,' the interpreters say in the document. At present, 'the interpreter is burdened with resolving their issues, despite [thebigword] creating problems that were not previously present.’

The incident is the latest in a series of disputes between court interpreters and government contract-holders over the past decade.

Woman on laptop and phone

Interpreters say app issues are leaving them without access to critical case information

Source: iStock

A spokesperson for thebigword said interpreters were given one month’s notice before the app was released. User guides and FAQs were sent out in communications, and one-to-one training was offered.

The spokesperson said no AI is used in the app. ‘thebigword from time to time makes updates, as we have recently done to our applications, to meet increasing audit and security requirements. We do recognise that there have been some challenges with these changes, however we believe that these are now resolved.’

A timesheet functionality for remote assignments is being added and thebigword is working to resolve any ongoing issues with confusing display information.

On the app reportedly draining phone batteries, the spokesperson said extensive testing was conducted internally and with a third party. Mileage calculations were audited ‘and no cases of incorrect payments were found’.

Thebigword reviewed the claim of misclassification of cancellations and found no cases where the job was misclassified. ‘When data was migrated initially, there were cases where two interpreters were allocated the same job when only one was required. All interpreters in these cases will be compensated in line with their contract,’ the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said thebigword met over 800 interpreters in person or remotely over the last week, which is approximately half of all Ministry of Justice-registered interpreters 'and we continue to listen to feedback and help them resolve any issues'.

The Gazette understands a meeting was held on Monday but interpreters felt the meeting failed to address their concerns.