Canada’s Quebec – French becomes the language for work!
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Canada’s Quebec – French becomes the language for work!
On June 20, 2023, Bill C-13, which makes several changes to strengthen, protect and promote the French language, received royal assent. While its first part amends the Official Languages Act, its second part enacts the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act (the Act). The provisions of the Act will come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.
The Act provides respecting the use of French with consumers and employees of federally regulated private businesses (federal undertakings) operating in Québec, the Standing Committee on Official Languages studied Bill C-13 and proposed certain amendments, which were subsequently adopted by Parliament.
This narrative focuses on these amendments, many of which were made so that the employment obligations under the Act, mirror those of the Québec Charter of the French language, as recently amended.
Language rights at work
Under the Act, employees of federal undertakings who occupy or are assigned to positions in a workplace in Québec or a region with a strong francophone presence will have the right to carry out their work and be supervised in French. They will also have the right to use French work instruments and computer systems that are regularly and widely used. The regions outside of Québec that will be considered as having a strong francophone presence will be determined by regulation.
Furthermore, they will have the right to receive all communications and documents in French, such as
- employment application forms
- offers of employment, transfer or promotion
- individual employment contracts
- documents related to the conditions of employment
- training documents produced for employees
- notices of termination of employment
- collective agreements and their schedules
Even when these employees cease to be employed, this right will continue to exist. Moreover, trade unions representing these employees will benefit from the same right.
Although this right will not prevent the use of English or a language other than French for communications and documents, the use of French will have to be at least equivalent in the case of widely distributed communications and in any documents.
Offer to fill a position
Federal undertakings with workplaces in Québec or a region with a strong francophone presence will be obliged to publish advertisements to fill a position that is assigned to one of those workplaces at least in French. Where applicable, they will have to ensure the simultaneous publication of the French and English versions by means identical in nature that reach a target public of a proportionally comparable size.
Individual employment contracts
A federal undertaking will have the possibility to enter into an employment contract exclusively in English or a language other than French with an employee of one of its workplaces in Québec or a region with a strong francophone presence if the employee agrees. Nevertheless, in the case of a contract of adhesion (a non-negotiable contract), it will be necessary to provide a French version of the contract to the employee in advance.
Fostering use of French
Federal undertakings will have to take measures to foster the use of French in their workplaces in Québec or regions with a strong francophone presence, which must include
informing employees that they are subject to the Act, informing employees of their language of work rights and their available remedies and establishing a committee (the Committee) to support the management group responsible for the general direction in the fostering of French and its use.
Federal undertakings will be prevented from treating adversely an employee of one of its workplaces in Québec or a region with a strong francophone presence for any of the following reasons:
- the employee only speaks French
- the employee does not have a sufficient knowledge of a language other than French
- the employee claims the possibility of expressing themselves in French
- the employee has exercised a right under the Act or made a complaint to the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada (the Commissioner)
Adverse treatment includes dismissing, laying off, demoting, transferring or suspending an employee. It also includes harassing, taking reprisals against, disciplining or imposing any other penalty on an employee.
Employees will have the right to make a complaint to the Commissioner if federal undertakings fail to comply with their obligations. The complaint will have to be made no later than the 90th day after the earlier of: (a) the day on which the employee became aware of the act or omission; and (b) the day on which the employee ought, in the Commissioner’s opinion, to have become aware of that act or omission.
Further rights of action can subsequently be exercised before the Canada Industrial Relations Board or before the Federal Court, depending on the employee’s preference, and damages and other forms of specific relief can be awarded to the employee.
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Collated and Compiled by the internal staff of Karma Global with the knowledge and expertise that they possess, besides adaptation, illustration, derivation, transformation, collection and auto generation for its monthly newsletter Issue 15 of September 2023 and in case of specific or general information or compliance updates for that matter, kindly reach out to the Marketing Team – Kush@karmamgmt.com / firstname.lastname@example.org