Where an employment agreement has not been properly drafted or
adapted for use in Québec, problems may arise with respect
to its enforceability. This is therefore an important consideration
for employers on the move or with employers in several
Québec is the only jurisdiction in Canada in which laws
govern the use of language in the employment relationship,
including in the drafting of the employment agreement.
Québec is also unique in Canada as the only employment law
jurisdiction that draws its fundamental contract law principles
from the civil law rather than the common law tradition.
Employers generally aim to use uniform and consistent employment
agreements throughout their operations; however, it is important to
ensure that employment agreements are properly adapted to the
applicable laws of the appropriate jurisdiction. This is all the
more essential where an agreement drafted under the laws of another
province or country is to be used in Québec.
The first step to successfully adapting an employment agreement
to the laws of Québec involves getting the language right.
Under the Québec Charter of the French Language,
employment agreements must be drafted in French unless it is the
express will of the parties that they be drafted in English or
another language. There must be genuine consent; an employer cannot
impose an English-language contract, and an employee's
preference for a French-language employment contract must be
respected. It is therefore a standard practice to include a clause
in an English-language agreement whereby the employee explicitly
acknowledge that the contract has been drafted in English at the
express will of both parties.
When it comes to drafting the substantive content of the
agreement, Québec law has a number of unique features,
particularly with regard to termination provisions. While it may be
possible in other Canadian jurisdictions for an employment
agreement to validly limit a dismissed employee's entitlement
to notice of termination to the minimum notice required by statute,
this is generally not possible in Québec. The Civil Code
of Québec specifically provides that an employee cannot
renounce his or her right to obtain compensation for any injury
that he or she suffers where insufficient notice of termination is
given or where the contract is terminated in an abusive manner.
Often, contracts drafted for common law jurisdictions include
language to the effect that the employee may be dismissed at any
time, for any reason, on reasonable notice. Such a provision may
not be enforceable in Québec if the employee has at least
two years of uninterrupted service for his or her employer. The
Québec Act Respecting Labour Standards provides
that an employee with at least two years of service has a right to
be reinstated in his or her position if he or she is dismissed
without good or sufficient cause. The most notable category of
staff excluded from this protection is senior managerial
Of course, employment standards and rules vary from jurisdiction
to jurisdiction, which may impact the drafting of an employment
agreement. Applicable legislation in each jurisdiction provides
differently for standards including minimum wage, hours of work,
overtime, vacation, vacation pay, and leaves. For example, in
Québec, entitlement to minimum annual vacation is acquired
progressively during a period called the reference year. The
reference year runs from May 1 to April 30 unless it is otherwise
fixed in an employment agreement. This is just one of many
employment standards issues that may need to be considered when an
agreement is being drafted or reviewed for compliance with
Tips for Employers
Employment agreements must be carefully drafted to ensure they
are valid and enforceable in the relevant jurisdiction. If you
would like to use an existing employment agreement in a new
jurisdiction, it is essential to take the time to have the
agreement thoroughly reviewed and redrafted, if required, to ensure
compliance with Québec law.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).