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Government of Québec proposes stricter French language law (Part 2) – impact on labour relations (webinar series)

Author(s): Alexandre Fallon, Sven Poysa, Julien Ranger

Sep 23, 2021

The broader requirements of the proposed amendments to the Charter of the French Language in Québec may convince businesses that had previously put off translating larger documents to re-think their strategy. This was among the discussion points during the second of two webinars on the proposed amendments presented by Osler. The second webinar, with its focus on the impact of the proposed amendments on labour relations, was led by Alexandre Fallon, partner, Litigation, Sven Poysa, partner, Employment and Labour, and Julien Ranger, partner, Pensions and Benefits.

While current requirements are for written employee communications to be in French, in practice only communications relating to the terms and conditions of employment are typically translated. This requirement has been interpreted broadly and some employers have taken advantage of this by avoiding translating  larger documents unless there has been a specific request by an employee to do so, or the document is required in French for litigation purposes. The Osler presenters suggested employers may now want to be proactive in translating these documents in light of the proposed amendments.

Employment contracts currently must be in French for all Québec-based employees. However, employees can request that their employment contracts be drawn up in English or another language. With the proposed changes, if the employment contract is one of adhesion or if it contains or refers to standard clauses, either a French version of the contract or the standard clauses would have to be presented to the employee before the employee can request to have the employment agreement drawn up in English.

Also with the proposed amendments, there will be a stricter test for making knowledge of English a condition of employment. Currently knowledge of English can only be a condition of employment if it is operationally necessary. Before making knowledge of English a condition of employment under the proposed changes, the employer will be required to demonstrate several conditions. This includes a demonstration that an assessment of the actual language needs associated with the duties to be performed was carried out, and that other employees who are already required to be proficient in English could not carry out the duties of the position that require English knowledge.


Slides: Government of Québec proposes stricter French language law - Part 2