Rescinded [2012-11-19] - Policy on Language of Work

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Effective date

This policy comes into effect on April 1, 2004, and replaces the following policies:

Background

Policy statement

English and French are the official languages of work in federal institutions. In regions designated as bilingual for language‑of‑work purposes, both official languages are the languages of work. In unilingual regions, the language of work is generally the one that predominates in the province or territory. Obligations to provide service to the public as well as supervision and personal and central services to employees take precedence over an employee's right to use one language or the other. These principles apply as defined in the policy requirements.

Application

This policy applies to all institutions subject to Part V of the Official Languages Act (OLA) with the exception of the Senate, the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament, the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer and the Office of the Ethics Commissioner.

Policy requirements

Accountability

Deputy heads are accountable for implementing this policy in their institutions.

Expected results

Regions designated as bilingual for language‑of‑work purposes

The institution creates and maintains a work environment conducive to the effective use of both official languages to enable its staff to use either language. The institution implements measures so that employees use their preferred official language:

The above obligations apply to institutions even if the office that supervises or provides personal and central services to employees in a bilingual region is located outside that region.

The institution ensures that its senior management communicates effectively in both official languages with the institution's employees and that it provides leadership in creating and maintaining a work environment conducive to the effective use of both official languages.

Furthermore, the institution implements:

Regions that are unilingual for language‑of‑work purposes

The language of work is the one that predominates in the province or territory where the work unit is located. There are, however, some exceptions:

  • Employees for whom the Treasury Board (TB) is the employer have the right to file grievances in their preferred official language anywhere in Canada. It is up to other institutions subject to the OLA to adopt this policy, taking their own situation into account.
  • Employees who are responsible for providing bilingual services shall have regularly and widely used work instruments in both official languages in order to provide these services.
  • An institution may give its offices in unilingual regions access to bilingual work instruments or services. However, this must be done in a way that provides comparable treatment for both official languages between regions in which one or the other language predominates.

Communications between regions

Responsibilities of institutions

An institution located in a bilingual region communicates:

  • in both official languages with offices located in other bilingual regions;
  • in both official languages when the communication is addressed to all federal institutions;
  • in the official language of a unilingual region to which the communication is addressed.

Central and common services agencies respect employee's language of work rights in institutions over which they have authority or that they serve.

For communications between unilingual regions with differing languages of work, each institution implements the measures necessary to enable its employees to communicate effectively with one another and with employees of other federal institutions. This must always be done in a way that provides comparable treatment for all employees.

Individual responsibilities

Employees in bilingual regions communicate with one another in either official language. In communicating with employees in unilingual regions, they normally use the language of the region to which the communication is addressed.

In communicating, employees in unilingual regions respect the principle that the person who receives the message is responsible for understanding it.

Monitoring and reporting

The Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada (PSHRMAC) is responsible for determining the method for assessing performance and monitoring implementation of this policy in institutions.

Each institution is responsible for keeping its records and information systems up to date and assessing results in order to report on them to PSHRMAC on request. At a minimum, the institution uses the following indicators to assess its situation:

  • effectiveness of measures implemented to encourage the use of both official languages in the workplace;
  • number of complaints related to language of work that the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages determined to be founded.

When assessment of the results reveals that the policy has not been respected, the institution reports the situation to PSHRMAC and takes appropriate corrective action.

Consequences

Any failure to respect TB policies and directives may be subject to an assessment, the results of which will be included in the President of the Treasury Board's annual report to Parliament.

In the case of institutions for which TB is the employer, compliance with the OLA and promotion of its objectives are to be integrated into annual performance assessments and influence ratings.

Failure to comply with this policy may be the subject of a complaint to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages under Part V of the OLA and of a legal remedy in the Trial Division of the Federal Court.

Enquiries

For further information, please contact the person responsible for official languages in your institution.

Definitions and Notes for the Reader

Personal and central services :

Here are some examples:

  • accounting services
  • administrative services
  • financial and budget services
  • computer services
  • evaluation and audit services
  • legal services
  • library, archival and information/communications services
  • management advisory services and consultation services
  • materiel management services
  • purchasing and procurement services
  • asset management services
  • security services
  • staffing and classification services
  • technical services
  • translation services
  • pay and benefits services
  • health care services
  • vocational guidance services
  • grievances
Deputy Heads :
This term is equivalent to "deputy minister", "chief executive officer" or some other title denoting this level of responsibility.
Effective use :
Actual, routine use of either official language in a work environment where employees can work in the official language of their choice.
Bilingual or either/or :
When functions have to be performed in French and English, the language requirement is identified as bilingual. When functions can be performed in either French or English, the language requirement is identified as reversible.
Regularly and widely used work instruments and computer systems :

For example, the following work tools or instruments are available in both official languages in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes:

  • manuals and handbooks of policies, procedures and directives;
  • handbooks and documentation needed to deliver services to the public or to employees; and
  • lexicons and official institutional publications that employees consult and other similar tools that they use in performing their duties.

Note that this list is not exhaustive. The institution is responsible for deciding on a case‑by‑case basis whether work instruments meet the definition of "regularly and widely used." This obligation applies no matter what format is used to make the work instruments available to employees (paper, electronic, etc.).

With regard to computer systems, those provided to employees as information sources or work tools must allow navigation and access to information in either official language; the information must also be available in the official language of the user's choice. As with work instruments, the institution is responsible for deciding on a case-by-case basis whether computer systems meet the definition of "regularly and widely used."

  • This requirement covers software applications, such as an office automation suite (word processor, electronic document management, spreadsheet, e-mail, etc.) made available to help employees perform their duties.
  • In general, this does not include specialized software such as that used by system managers and support technicians to install, configure, maintain and manage the underlying software and hardware infrastructure that makes the institution's software suite available to employees.
  • Regularly and widely used information technology systems, including software packages, acquired or produced by or on behalf of institutions after January 1, 1991, are available in both official languages.
Central and common services agencies
Agencies that are obliged to respect official languages use by personnel in the institutions over which they have authority or which they serve. These institutions include the Privy Council Office, Treasury Board Secretariat, Department of Finance, Public Service Commission, Department of Justice, Canada School of Public Service, Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Individual responsibilities :

Communications Between Employees

For communications between employees in different regions, the following principles apply: 

  • When an employee in a bilingual region or an employee of a central and common services agency communicates with an employee in a unilingual English region, communication is in English.
  • When an employee in a bilingual region or an employee of a central and common services agency communicates with an employee in a unilingual French region, communication is in French.
  • When an employee in a bilingual region communicates with another employee in a bilingual region, communication is in French or English, at their choice.
  • When an employee of a central and common services agency communicates with an employee in a bilingual region, communication is in the language of choice of the employee in the bilingual region.
  • When an employee in a unilingual French region communicates with an employee in a unilingual English region, unilingual French region or bilingual region, communication is in French, according to the principle that the person who receives the message is responsible for understanding it.
  • When an employee in a unilingual English region communicates with an employee in a unilingual French region, unilingual English region or bilingual region, communication is in English, according to the principle that the person who receives the message is responsible for understanding it.
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