Bill 96: A Refresher
This article is a refresher on An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec (“Bill 96”) which amends the Charter of the French Language (the “Charter”) and which was passed by the National Assembly of Québec in June 2022. We previously provided a high-level overview of Bill 96 which can be found here and the purpose of this follow-up is to provide a reminder of the following legal areas and new obligations imposed with effect as of June 1, 2023:
- Contracts of adhesion.
- Translation of employment agreements.
- Communication and contracting with Quebec government entities in French.
- French language agency and training.
Contracts of Adhesion
As of June 1, 2023, subject to certain exceptions, companies conducting business in Quebec will have to provide contracts of adhesion in French. Contracts of adhesion include consumer or commercial agreements dictated by one party and include terms of service, franchise agreements, and insurance agreements. There are exceptions to the French language requirement which are quite specific (e.g. contracts for trading in derivatives, clearing house agreements and certain insurance policies that don’t have an equivalent in Quebec.)
Translation of Employment Agreements and Related Materials
For Quebec employers subject to the Charter, new employment agreements and related materials executed from June 1, 2022 onwards must be in French, though another language version can supplement them. For pre-existing employees, the deadline for translating materials was June 1, 2023, unless it concerns a fixed-term contract that will end before June 1, 2024. Examples of documents requiring French translation include job postings, job application documents, employment policies, documentation regarding employee benefits, and equity plans and agreements.
Communication and Contracts with Government Entities
Starting June 1, 2023, agreements and oral communication with the civil administration (i.e., the Quebec government, government departments and government bodies) must be in French. Quebec’s government entities may only communicate in another language for specific exemptions (i.e., intergovernmental or international agreements) or to ascertain whether a person will meet a specific exemption. This requirement includes applications for permits or authorization of a similar nature. Similarly, services provided under contract to the Quebec civil administration are to be in French as well. Finally, Quebec government entities will exclusively use French in any written communication with businesses unless otherwise established by regulation.
French Language Agency and Training
As of June 1, 2023, the following francization obligations apply:
- Per the Quebec Registraire des entreprises, all new and existing Quebec businesses with 5 to 49 employees must declare what proportion of their workface cannot communicate in French.
- Francisation Quebec (“FQ”) conducts and manages government action with respect to francization of employees and acts as the sole point of access for receiving French language services. The Office québécois de la langue française (“OQLF”), after consultation with FQ, shall determine annually what sectors and related enterprises with 5 to 49 employees will be offered language services by FQ. Quebec employers that implement such French language services must make these services available to employees who are unable to communicate in French.
Bill 96 introduced important changes that apply to the way businesses operate in the province of Quebec or offer products or services to Quebec residents. Organizations need to be cognizant of these requirements and have a plan to ensure full compliance, including when engaging with Quebec consumers and dealing with Quebec-based employees or government agencies.
Note: LaBarge Weinstein LLP does not have lawyers qualified to practice and advise on law in the Province of Quebec. We are therefore providing this article for information purposes only to enable clients affected or potentially affected by these legislative changes to consult with qualified Quebec counsel.