How Does Quebec’s Bill 96 Impact Employers

How Does Quebec’s Bill 96 Impact Employers?

Quebec, a province known for its vibrant French-speaking community, has recently enacted Bill 96, a comprehensive law aimed at safeguarding the French language. Officially titled An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec, this legislation brings significant reforms to various aspects of Quebec life. From education to health services, and even the rights of immigrants, Bill 96 seeks to reinforce the prominence of French within the province.

However, Bill 96 compliance can be challenging for English-speaking or foreign employers. In this blog, we will explore the core responsibilities of employers under Bill 96 and offer tips on how to become compliant.

Understanding Bill 96

Bill 96 introduces amendments to the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, imposing new responsibilities upon employers and business owners regarding the preservation of the French language. Building upon the existing requirements outlined in the Charter, the Bill mandates that all services, signs, and labels must be provided in French, further emphasizing French as the primary language of business.

The overarching objective of this legislation is to propel Quebec toward a future where French remains the language of everyday life and business. Its impact extends across various domains, including trademarks, online advertising, business websites, and day-to-day workplace interactions.

Employers are encouraged to recognize French as the official language of Quebec and ensure its prevalence within all workplaces, thereby facilitating successful compliance with Bill 96.

Key Provisions and Requirements

Bill 96, a significant overhaul of Quebec’s language legislation, aims to safeguard and promote the French language within the province. Notably, this legislation replaces and amends existing provisions, impacting various domains such as business, education, publications, commerce, marketing, and legal proceedings.

Key points regarding Bill 96 include:

  1. No Exceptions: The legislation leaves no room for exceptions. Its purpose is resolute: to protect and elevate French as the primary language in Quebec.
  2. Broad Impact: Bill 96 affects all employers and workers in Quebec, including temporary workers. Employers and business owners bear new responsibilities to ensure French predominance in workplaces and in their business practices.
  3. Individual Obligations: Private individuals are tasked with acquiring French fluency. For new immigrants, this involves achieving a certain level of proficiency within six months and passing a fluency test.
  4. Enhanced Foreign Business Obligations: Foreign businesses are required to provide translations of all product labels and documentation, business communication, websites and marketing materials, legal documents, and offer customer service in French.  
Key Provisions of Bill 96

A fully compliant business operating in Quebec:

  • Is operating in French as much as possible.
  • Has a French website, signage, marketing materials, and customer service team.
  • Has French internal documents, signage, training materials, and databases (i.e. core tools can be used by Francophones).
  • Is setting language proficiency goals for non-fluent team members and providing tools and resources to improve their French.
  • Can produce reporting on the use of French in its offices (including virtual), stores, marketing materials, business communication, and more.

Employer Requirements

Bill 96 requires employers to provide all documents, databases, training, tools, and communications in French. This requirement starts during the hiring process and extends through the employee’s entire tenure with the company, including termination. During the hiring process, employers must:

  • Provide French job descriptions.
  • Ensure French job ads and posts have equal or greater potential reach than versions in any other language.
  • Provide a French hiring and onboarding experience.
  • Provide French offer letters and contracts.

Employees may request English copies of these documents after being presented with the French versions. Signatures should be taken on the French version of any offer letters, contracts or handbooks. Employers should keep a copy of their employees’ language preferences on file.

Companies that do business with the rest of Canada, or non-French speaking countries, can employ bi- or multilingual people in customer facing roles, but this cannot be a requirement for all staff members.

Francization Requirements

Bill 96 also requires employers to minimize the need for languages other than French in the workplace. Employers must encourage French fluency among their staff, and those with 50 or more employees (or 25 or more as of June 1, 2025) must register with the Office Québécois De La Langue Française (OQLF) and form a Francization committee.

The committee is responsible for studying how much French is used in the workplace, any barriers to operating in French, how fluent the workforce is, and then forming a plan to improve it. The plan must be submitted to the OQLF for review within three months. The work of the committee should continue indefinitely, meeting every six months, to ensure ongoing Francization.

Employers with less than 50 employees may not need to form a committee, but they have broadly the same responsibilities under the act. Growing businesses should act on Francization well before they hit this employee milestone.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Penalties for Bill 96 non-compliance can be steep.

  • Individuals: Under the existing Charter, fines for individuals range from $600 to $6,000. However, Bill 96 raises the stakes, imposing fines of $700 to $7,000 for natural persons.
  • Legal Persons (Corporations): Previously, the Charter prescribed fines of $1,500 to $20,000 for legal entities. With Bill 96, these penalties escalate to $3,000 to $30,000 for corporations.
  • Company Directors and Officers: Directors and officers of businesses are not exempt. They face fines ranging from $1,400 to $14,000.
  • False Information Submission: Submitting false information related to language compliance is a serious offense. The fines for such violations are substantial: $10,000 to $250,000.
  • Repeat Offenses: All fines are doubled for a second offense and tripled for a third violation.
Offender Type First Offense Second Offense Third Offense
Individuals $700 – $7,000 Double Triple
Legal Persons (Corporations) $3,000 – $30,000 Double Triple
Company Directors/Officers $1,400 – $14,000 Double Triple
False Information Submission $10,000 – $250,000 N/A N/A

These penalties underscore the Quebec government’s commitment to enforcing French language requirements within the province.

Does Bill 96 Impact Foreign Employers?

Foreign companies that employ people in Quebec are impacted by Bill 96 and other Quebec employment laws. When you employ people internationally, local law governs how they are treated and many of the basic terms of their employment agreement. Your standard contracts, offer letters and even HR practices cannot be reused in other countries where the legal structure and rulings are substantially different. That’s why many businesses opt to hire through an Employer of Record.

Employers of Record (EOR) like Canadian Payroll Services are HR outsourcing firms that hire employees on behalf of companies that don’t have a local entity. They take on responsibility for employment compliance, payroll and taxes, and help deliver total competitive compensation packages that include salary, benefits, retirement matches, allowances and more. EORs allow you to hire and onboard quickly and compliantly in Quebec, without opening a local subsidiary, registering with the OQLF, or filing business taxes.

How Canadian Payroll Services Can Help

Remember, whether you open a local subsidiary or hire through an Employer of Record, your employees must be treated in accordance with the Quebec Labour Code and the Charter. By working with an EOR, like Canadian Payroll Services you will have a trusted partner to assist you with French language compliance in Quebec.

Canadian Payroll Services provides:

  • Provincially compliant employment contracts and schedules in French and English.
  • Onboarding documents and handbooks in French and English.
  • Fully outsourced payroll – we handle taxes, remittances and more.
  • Ongoing HR and legal support and bulletins.
  • Extended health benefits, health spending accounts, retirement matches and more.
  • Easy payment options and preferred exchange rates.

Bill 96 is more than a legal text; it is a declaration of intent. An assertion that French is and always will be the primary language of life and business in the province of Quebec. Bill 96 compliance requires that you accept this as a first principle. The practicalities of Francization are easier to grapple with from there. Through careful planning and with help from local partners like Canadian Payroll Services, your business can operate compliantly in Quebec.

If you’d like to learn more about how Canadian Payroll Services can help, get in touch!

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