The government of Québec recently passed the Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec (the Act), which strengthens and clarifies the existing mandate to use the French language in the province and requires employers to ensure that all their human resources documentation is available in French. While most of the provisions of the Act entered into effect in 2022 and June 2023, others will enter into effect on 1 June 2025.

Key Details

The Act applies to companies located in Québec, including foreign companies.

The following changes entered into effect in June and September 2022:

Job offers, promotions, and transfers: Prior to the Act, mandated bilingual skill was already discouraged as employers were required to prove that fluency in a language other than French was needed for the performance of job duties when hiring, promoting, or transferring employees.

The Act introduces stricter rules by requiring employers to (1) conduct an assessment of the language requirement for the tasks that need to be performed; (2) demonstrate that the language skills of current employees are not adequate for them to perform the tasks required; (3) limit the number of positions requiring the knowledge of a language other than French.

Where an employer fails to comply with the new rules, job candidates or current employees can submit a claim against the employer if they prove that the employer failed to take all reasonable steps to avoid requiring knowledge of a language other than French to perform job duties have not been taken.

In addition, employers are required to specify the reasons why they are requiring a language other than French in the job offer and ensure the application form is available in French.

Employment contracts: Prior to the Act, employment contracts could be drafted in a language other than French so long as all parties agreed. From 1 June 2022, all employment contracts must also provide a French version in addition to any other language. Employees must also be able to access all documents relating to working conditions in French.

Written internal communications: From 1 June 2022, all written internal communications with employees must be minimally in French, however, bilingual communications are permitted. Written communications include offers of training, transfer, promotion, and employment, as well as any communication following termination of employment. An employee may, however, ask to receive such communications in English or any other language other than French.

Harassment and discrimination: The Act reiterates an employee’s right to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment related to language. Employees may not be discriminated against or harassed because they only speak and understand French, or because they have exercised their rights under the legislation. Employers must take reasonable actions to end any behavior that violates such rights. 

Francization of the justice system: While legal proceedings may still be filed in either English or French, from 1 September 2022, all English pleadings must include a certified French translation at the parties’ expense.  In addition, anyone may request the French translation of any judgment or decision drafted in English. The entity that rendered such judgment or decision is required to bear the cost the French translation.

The following changes entered into effect on 1 June 2023:

Translation of existing employment related documents:

  • Employers are required to translate in French all employment related documents drafted in a language other than French prior to 1 June 2022. This includes job postings, job application documents, employment policies, employee handbooks, employee benefits documentation, equity agreements, etc. 
  • Employees who were provided with an English version of their employment contract prior to 1 June 2022 are entitled to request a French version of their contract. The French translation must be provided at the employer’s expense no later than 1 June 2023.

Contracts of adhesion including insurance policies as well as invoices, receipts and other similar documents must be submitted in French first. After the French version of the document is reviewed, the parties may choose to be bound instead by a version in another language.

Francization of the civil administration: All documents, communications, and contracts entered into with Quebec civil administration must be in French and a version in another language may be included. Permits applications and other authorizations must also be drafted in French.

French language learning services will be offered by Francization Québec agency to businesses with five or more employees in certain key sectors selected by the Office Québécois de la langue française (the “Office”).

The following changes will become effective on 1 June 2025:

Francization rules extended: Currently, companies with at least 50 employees must register with the Office and conduct a language analysis to ensure that the French language is commonly used at all levels within the workplace. If the assessment is successful, the Office issues a francization certificate to the company. If the company fails the assessment, it will be required to create and implement a francization program and do another assessment to obtain such a certificate.

Under the Act and starting 1 June 2025, companies with 25 to 49 employees will also be subject to the francization process.

Public signs, trademarks, posters, and commercial advertising must be modified to ensure that the French language is more visible and larger than any other language. This new rule does not apply to registered trademarks with no corresponding French version.


Companies that do not comply with the statutory language requirements set under the Act will no longer be awarded contracts or granted subsidies by the government of Québec.

In addition, fines in the event of noncompliance have increased for legal entities from CAD 3,000 to CAD 30,000 for a first violation (double for a second violation and triple for subsequent violations).

Where a company doesn’t comply after being sanctioned, each additional day of violation will be considered a separate offense and fined accordingly. The directors and officers of non-compliant companies will be presumed liable for the offense unless they prove they took all necessary precautions to prevent such violations.

Next steps

Non-French speaking companies may need to hire a fluent French communicator in their Human Resources department and fluent outside vendors to help with payroll. Additionally, employers should take care in translating documents into French to ensure they are of similar quality and as accessible as the English versions to maintain compliance with the Act. Employers should consider creating and maintaining bilingual communications and documents to ensure ongoing compliance for all employees.