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Bill 96 (Law 14) in Quebec and Small Business: What Are the Primary Changes?

By Rossion

By Rossion

You’ve likely heard about Bill 96, a change to the Quebec Charter of French Language that was instituted in 2022. Initial regulations took effect in 2022. More changes were rolled out this past year, with more coming. Below is a recap of what these changes are, what’s coming next, and how this affects businesses operating in Quebec.

What Needs to be Translated?

We covered the basics of Bill 96 here and also discussed an update that came into effect in June 2023 here.

To recap: public-facing information and business contracts must be presented in French. This includes the following:

  • Your website and other marketing assets
  • Customer support information
  • Employment postings, contracts, and training documents
  • Labels, packaging, and product information
  • Internal and external non-negotiable and consumer contracts
  • Contracts and documentation provided to civil administration in Quebec, with some exceptions

Note: you can also provide this information in other languages in addition to French. The key here is to ensure that French is as prominent as any other language you use. 

A Lowered Employee Threshold for Francization Measures

Bill 96 includes a series of francization measures for businesses. Initially, this only applied to medium- and large-sized businesses. Small businesses are now included in some provisions.

What Regulations Apply to Small Business?

Businesses with five or more employees are now required to inform the government of what proportion of their employees are proficient – and not proficient – in French. What “proficient” means here is not necessarily clearly defined. The level of proficiency applies to how well employees can perform work-related functions. So, it varies depending on each person’s responsibilities. This list will be publicly available on the Registraire des entreprises du Québec.

In addition, businesses with as few as five employees may be eligible to provide French-language training to employees through Francisation Québec.

What’s Coming Next with Bill 96?

No additional changes are coming this calendar year – but more are on the horizon. As of June 1, 2024, judgments rendered in English in a court of law in Quebec will be translated into French at the government’s cost. And in 2025, the employee threshold for certain francization requirements will be lowered. Trademarks will also be affected. Stay tuned for more details!

Key Takeaways

  • Some provisions from Bill 96 now also apply to small businesses in Quebec. If your business has five or more employees, we recommend that you do your research and follow the new regulations or risk a hefty fine.
  • You must report your employees’ French proficiency as it relates to their position. And you may have access to French-language training for your employees through Francisation Québec.
  • Changes to language laws can be confusing. Speak to your language provider for any translation needs. And if in doubt, contact your legal advisor for clear guidelines about what needs to be presented in French and where.

References

https://www.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/charte/changementslegislatifs/

https://montrealgazette.com/business/local-business/bill-96-honour-system-in-place-click-if-you-have-the-right-to-english-services

https://www.osler.com/en/resources/regulations/2023/government-of-quebec-adopts-the-regulation-respecting-the-language-of-the-civil-administration

https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2023/bill-96-s-french-first-rule-takes-effect/

https://mcmillan.ca/insights/bill-96-dates-to-remember-and-top-five-5-take-aways-from-the-amendment-process/

https://www.blakes.com/insights/bulletins/2023/quebec-s-french-language-charter-a-year-after-bill-96

https://www.dentons.com/en/insights/articles/2022/june/22/the-main-impacts-of-quebecs-bill-96-on-companies

https://www.mpamag.com/ca/specialty/specialized-lending/bill-96-what-impact-is-it-having-on-the-quebec-mortgage-industry/454664

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