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Quebec’s French Language Charter: A Year After Bill 96

May 9, 2023

On May 24, 2022, Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec (Bill 96), which amends the Charter of the French Language (Charter), was adopted by Quebec’s National Assembly. Certain provisions of Bill 96 are already in force, with additional requirements taking effect over the coming months or years.

In this bulletin, we provide an overview of the upcoming obligations that will be incumbent on employers in Quebec.

Translation Requirements

Employment Contracts

As noted in our May 2022 Blakes Bulletin: New French Language Requirements for Employers: Are You Ready?, since June 1, 2022, employers subject to the Charter are required to provide in French, or simultaneously in both French and another language, all individual employment contracts that are contracts of adhesion (i.e., a contract whose essential provisions may not be negotiated by the employee) and are in writing. This requirement applies to not only individual employment contracts, but also their schedules, which may include, as applicable, non-disclosure and IP assignment agreements and agreements pertaining to employee commitments.

Employees governed by individual employment contracts that are in a language other than French prior to June 1, 2022, have until June 1, 2023, to ask their employer for a French version. Employers must ensure employees receive the French translation of their contracts as soon as possible and bear the related costs. This requirement does not apply to fixed-term contracts of employment entered into before June 1, 2022, and expiring no later than June 1, 2024.

Other Employment-Related Documents

Similarly, as of June 1, 2022, Bill 96 requires employers subject to the Charter to provide employees and job applicants with documents, in French, that relate to conditions of employment (e.g., employee manuals, psychological harassment policies and any other employer policies), employment application forms and staff training documents.

For documents belonging to these categories that were available in a language other than French prior to June 1, 2022, employers will have a grace period of 12 months following such date to make the French version of these documents available to their employees. Throughout this grace period, employers may continue to make these documents available in the other language. However, as of June 1, 2023, all documents pertaining to conditions of employment, as well as application forms and training documents intended for staff, must be available in French.

Commercial Contracts

As of June 1, 2023, all commercial contracts that are not subject to the Charter and deemed to be contracts of adhesion must be drawn up in French or provided simultaneously in French and another language (in the same document or separate documents). A contract of adhesion arises when one party decides on or drafts the essential terms of a contract without the involvement of the other party. Private contracts, which are not contracts of adhesion, may be drawn up in French or another language. As such, service contracts with independent contractors (e.g., self-employed individuals) or consultants fall under these provisions of the Charter.

Francization Obligations

The Charter provides that when an enterprise reaches the 50-employee threshold in Quebec for a period of six months (threshold date), it becomes subject to francization requirements under which it must, among other things, register with the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) within six months of the threshold date. The OQLF then conducts an audit to assess whether the use of French is sufficiently generalized throughout the enterprise’s business activities. If the enterprise meets this requirement, the OQLF will issue it a francization certificate. Should the audit determine otherwise, the enterprise will be required to implement a francization program to remedy the situation.

Bill 96 provides that on June 1, 2025, the aforementioned employee threshold will be lowered from 50 to 25. As such, the updated francization obligations will apply to a greater number of employers in Quebec.

As the changes noted above are set to take effect over the coming months and may require employers to significantly update their current policies and practices, employers should review their internal operations expeditiously to ensure compliance with these new legal obligations.

For more information, please contact:

Natalie Bussière                      +1-514-982-4080
Francis Laperrière Racine      +1-514-982-4149
Sophie Lanteigne                    +1-514-982-4069

or any other member of our Employment & Labour group.