If you’re a business owner in Quebec, you’ve likely heard of Bill 96, a piece of legislation passed into law by the National Assembly of Quebec in June 2022. There’s been a lot of discussion around Bill 96, which is described as “An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec.” The bill brings some significant changes to Bill 101, known as the Charter of the French Language in Quebec, for businesses operating in Quebec.
Bill 96 contains extensive updates to the original Bill 101, with several amendments, changes in how things are worded, and even some fully rewritten or replaced sections. It brings a new level of stringency to the existing language requirements for businesses, employers, workers, and customers, and also impacts education and public services.
Organizations that have operated primarily in English leading up to Bill 96’s passing will need to make adjustments to meet the new requirements. More specifically, the bill means changes to…
- Customer service and marketing: Clients, customers, and business partners are entitled to receive information and service in the French language.
- Employment requirements: Employers may require employees to be proficient in the French language, but not in any other language.
- Hiring and employment documents: Job opportunities must be detailed and promoted in French, and all employee documents must be in French.
- Product information: Any product information must be made available in French, and the French-language version must not be presented in a less prominent or favourable way.
- Enforcement by the OQLF: The Quebec Board of the French Language, known as the OQLF, has been given increased authority to enforce the new language requirements brought forward in Billl 96.
All of these requirements under Bill 96 were made effective on June 1 2022, and businesses that fail to comply may be met with fines from $3,000 to $30,000.
There will be additional requirements coming into place as of June 1 2023, and more still as of June 1 2025. These further requirements include changes to…
- Written contracts: Contracts will need to be provided in French first, and will only be able to be provided in another language upon request as of June 1 2023.
- Trademarks: Trademarks that appear on labels, packaging, public signage, and advertising will need to be presented in French as of June 1 2025.
- French predominance: Any company in Quebec with more than 25 employees will need to operate predominantly in French, and those with more than 100 employees will need to form a “francization committee” that will meet every 6 months as of June 1 2025.
Clearly, Bill 96 means significant changes for how businesses operate, and will mean ongoing considerations and adjustments for organizations going forward.
So if you’re running a business in Quebec using a primary language other than French, what’s the top priority when it comes to translation? Here is a list of business collateral that will require immediate translation to meet the requirements of Bill 96:
- Public information and marketing collateral, including your website and hard-copy assets like pamphlets and flyers.
- Customer support information, whether provided through your website or by email, phone, or in-person communication.
- Documentation for employment, such as job postings, employment contracts, and training documents.
- Labels or packaging with product information like ingredients, warranties, or instructions. The French version of this information can’t be made less prominent than another language version.
And to meet the impending requirements of Bill 96, your business will need to translate:
- Other business contracts both internal and external, like leases and membership agreements, by June 1 2023.
- Trademarked labels, packaging, and public signage, by June 1 2025.
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This new language law in Quebec means important changes for businesses big and small. The best way to meet the new requirements is to know them and get ahead of them. A few things to keep in mind:
- It might seem daunting, but if you break your goals into smaller tasks and tackle them one at a time, you’ll get there.
- Bill 96 brings increased authority to the government body responsible for enforcing it, so vigilance is essential.
- Translation is easier with a trusted partner. Look into your options and find a translation services provider that’s aligned with your needs.