What Does Québec’s French Language Bill Mean for Employers?
Québec has introduced amendments to the Charter of the French language to increase the use of French. This includes amendments to strengthen French as the language of work. If passed, this legislation will impose additional requirements on employers. Here’s what you need to know if you have employees in Québec.
Québec introduced Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec/Projet de loi n° 96, Loi sur la langue officielle et commune du Québec, le français on May 13, 2021. Currently, the Charter of the French language includes provisions dealing with the language of labour relations and the francization of enterprises. Bill 96 expands those provisions in several ways.
Specifying that the language of labour relations provisions in the Charter of the French language apply to every employee. The amendments also broadly define an “employer” as anyone who has work done by an employee or, if there is a collective agreement, anyone who gives work to a worker or co-ordinates the services offered by a worker.
Employment Documents and Communication
Requiring employment documents to be written in French. This includes offers of employment, transfer or promotion, employment contracts, application forms, training documents and group benefit policies. French must also be used in written communications, including communications after termination of employment.
Communication by an employer with an employee exclusively in a language other than French is only permitted if the employee has requested the communication in another language. Specific rules also apply to standard form contracts.
Employee Language Requirements
Under the Charter of the French language, an employer cannot make knowledge of a language other than French a requirement for employment, unless required by the nature of the duties. An employer needs to take all reasonable means to avoid requiring knowledge of a language other than French.
Bill 96 specifies that an employer will be deemed not to have taken all reasonable means to avoid requiring knowledge of another language if they have not done one of the following:
- assessed the actual language needs associated with the duties;
- made sure the language knowledge already required from other employees is insufficient; or
- restricted as much as possible the number of positions with duties that involve knowledge of another language.
Protection from Reprisals
Expanding protections from reprisal. Bill 96 specifically protects employees who only speak French from reprisals, and it enumerates other specific protections for employees. It also adds dispute resolution procedures to address complaints of reprisals, harassment and discrimination.
Protection from reprisals is also expanded to apply to workers who take part in francization committee or subcommittee meetings or tasks.
Protection from Discrimination
Adding protection from discrimination and harassment because an employee only speaks French. An employee is protected from discrimination and harassment where:
- they have little or no knowledge of a language other than French;
- they express themselves in French; or
- they demand a right given to them under the language of labour relations provisions be respected.
An employer has an obligation to use reasonable means to prevent and stop discrimination and harassment. As noted above, dispute resolution procedures have also been added to deal with complaints of harassment or discrimination.
Extending the francization requirements under the Charter of French language to businesses with 25-49 employees. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees will only be required to create a francization committee if ordered to do so.
Human Rights and Freedoms
In addition, the Bill amends the Charter of human rights and freedoms by adding “a right to live in French to the extent provided for in the Charter of the French language”.