The following changes apply to all companies located in Québec, including foreign companies.
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.
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 rules extended
Currently, companies with at least 50 employees must register with the Office Québécois de la langue française (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.
Companies that do not comply with the language statutory 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 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.
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.