Government of New Brunswick

The Language of Work policy was implemented to promote the use of both official languages within part I (department and agencies) of the New Brunswick Public Service and to encourage and enable employees to work in their official language of choice.

Frequently Asked Questions


The Language of Work Policy

What is the Language of Work Policy?

The Language of Work policy promotes the use of both official languages by employees within part I (department and agencies) of the New Brunswick Public Service. The Language of Work policy allows civil servants more opportunities to work in the official language in which they are more comfortable by creating an environment favourable to the use of English and French. The policy enables employees to work in their language of choice, for example when taking part in meetings, drafting documents and using work tools.

What else does Language of Work mean?
It means all personnel and payroll services, yearly performance appraisals, and needed work instruments, will be available in employees’ preferred official language.  In addition, regional staff can communicate with head offices in the language in which they are more comfortable.  Line departments can also expect to communicate in their language of choice when communicating with central agencies. Employees are also encouraged to use English and French in their daily work, either is meetings, discussions with colleagues or drafting documents.

Who does the policy apply to?
The Language of Work policy applies to all employees who work in Part I (departments and agencies) of the New Brunswick Public Service.

Why is Language of Work needed?
Creating an environment where both languages can be used helps employees work more effectively, and will improve the ability to provide quality services in English and French. Also, it will help employees preserve their first language skills, and use and maintain the second language skills they may acquire.

This first policy took effect in 1988. What is the difference between that policy and this revised Language of Work policy?
This revised policy clarifies the policy direction with the addition of guidelines for its application.  New elements have been added in relation to supervision, drafting of documents, work tools, meetings, Interdepartmental communication and communication within departments and agencies, as well as employee to employee communication. It is also supported with the addition of training and implementation tools such as an on-line course and tool kit.

Does the Language of Work policy, means that all supervisors have to be bilingual?
No, that is not the case. The policy says that day to day communications between a supervisor and an employee must be in the official language chosen by the employee. Bilingual Supervisors must communicate with employees in their official language of choice. If a supervisor is not bilingual, he must ensure that processes are in place to facilitate the employee’s request to communicate in his/her preferred language.   For more information on how supervisors can achieve this, please consult the tool kit

How does Language of Work apply to performance review?
Performance reviews must be provided in the official language chosen by the employee. Supervisors who can not speak that language can bring in a third person to assist such as the next level of management or a representative from the Human Resources section or another person deemed appropriate by both the employee and the supervisor.

What can employees do to help create a bilingual work environment?
Employees can do a lot to help promote English and French in the workplace. For example, people can make a habit of using their own official language when communicating with their supervisors or with bilingual colleagues of the other language group. Besides exercising their language of choice, this gives their colleagues a chance to sharpen their own second-language skills. When opportunities arise, employees can also choose to improve their second-language ability by speaking to colleagues from the other language group in their official language.


The Team Approach


How does this work? Do all government employees have to be bilingual?

No. We are using a team approach to provide quality services in both official languages to the public and other government department and agencies. Employees work in functional teams so that the services each team offers can be provided in either language, as needed.

What does the government mean by "bilingual"?
In some cases, it means having reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in English and French. In other cases, it means having only some of these skills in both languages. For example, let's say an employee in a team deals with members of both linguistic groups, but contact is mostly verbal. In that case, the employee probably only needs speaking and listening skills in the second language; the reading and writing skills may not be needed.

Are jobs designated bilingual or unilingual?
No, individual positions are not designated as bilingual or unilingual. We use a team approach based on a mix of employees having the combined required language skills.  When, for example, a bilingual employee leaves his or her job, it does not necessarily mean it will be staffed with another bilingual employee.  It depends on the current overall linguistic capability of the team.

Does every member of the team have to know both languages?
Not necessarily.  The linguistic capability of the team as a whole is what matters.

Does this mean that employees, who are not bilingual, are not obligated to provide an active offer of service in both official languages?
No, all employees have the obligation to provide an active offer of service in both official languages. By using both official languages in your greeting, you would be providing an active offer of services. If you are not able to provide the service yourself once the active offer of service is made, one of your team members should step in to assist you with the requested services.  

How much capacity in both languages will each team need?
That will depend on how much and what type of contact a team has with the public or other government department and agencies.  For example, teams that have a lot of contact with the public or other government department and agencies, provide specialized services, or work in areas with a balanced linguistic mix, will need greater capacity in English and French than those that have little contact with the public, or work in areas where one language predominates.

Do I need to be bilingual to obtain a job with the province?
Not necessarily, each job is advertised in relation to what is needed to meet the linguistic profile of the team at the time of the competition.  Depending on the situation, jobs will continue to be advertised with a variety of linguistic requirements.


Career Advancement


If I'm a unilingual employee, how will the language of work policy affect my chances for promotion?
Unilingual employees will continue to have opportunities for advancement. Let's say you're a unilingual employee and there are three people above you on the ladder: one bilingual and two unilingual. When one of the jobs becomes vacant you can be promoted, as long as the team meets the linguistic requirements - and provided you're the most qualified for the job.
If unilingual employees aspire to be supervisors, won’t they automatically be passed over if a bilingual candidate is also competing for that position?
It will depend on whether or not the bilingual requirements of the team are met at the time when the job is advertised.  If there are a sufficient number of employees in the team with the required bilingual capacity, the job would be advertised with a unilingual requirement and you would then be able to compete.  Other employees who are bilingual could also apply, but the requirements would be unilingual and as such, they would not gain an advantage over you.  The fact that they are bilingual would not be assessed as part of the evaluation process. 


Language Training


What is taken into consideration to determine if an employee can obtain language training?

Priority for the provision of second language training and language upgrading courses will be based on ensuring that:

  • Services offered to the public in English and in French are of equal quality;
  • Critical needs for organisations to provide services in both official languages to the public and to maintain their capacity to conduct their business as identified through linguistic profiles are met;
  • Employees for whom language training would be an integral part of professional development have the opportunity to receive such training.

Promoting Both Official Languages in Meetings


Do all meetings have to be fully bilingual?

Not necessarily, depending on the size of the meeting and the language capabilities of the meeting participants, meetings can take place in English, French or be bilingual. 
Small meetings must be held in a manner that encourages the use of both official languages. During large meetings, both official languages must be used. 
For information about chairing meetings, see the Guide for Chairing Bilingual Meetings Effectively

What defines a small or a large meeting?
Small meetings are typically those of project teams, work units or branches. While large meetings would be meetings such as regional meetings, interdepartmental meetings, annual meetings of departments, training sessions, public consultations, and so on.

Will I be forced to use one language during meetings?
No.  Bilingual work environments do not force employees to use one official language, particularly during bilingual meetings.  The policy encourages measures which allow individuals to choose to communicate in one or the other official language, or in both.

How is language decided for a meeting?
This really depends on the type of meeting conducted. Small meetings must be held in a manner that encourages the use of both official languages.  Meeting organizers should ensure that the participants have the option of communicating in their official language of choice during small meetings. They can accomplish this by alternating between English and French and /or encouraging participants to make presentations in the language that they are most comfortable using.
For large meetings, both official languages must be used at all time. This can be accomplished by using: Simultaneous interpretation; Bilingual facilitators; English and French co-chairs.  Meeting organizers can also elect to conduct separate meetings in either official language. 
For more about chairing meetings see the Guide for Chairing Bilingual Meetings Effectively

I have been asked to chair a meeting, however I am not fully bilingual – what should I do?
Depending on the type of meeting you will be chairing, you have a few options available to you such as having a co-chairperson to help you if you are not comfortable in your second language or you could have simultaneous interpretation. 
For more about chairing meetings see the Guide for Chairing Bilingual Meetings Effectively

My department has decided to hold both English and a French meeting.  How can I be sure I’m fully aware of what was said at the other meeting?
Should two meetings be held on the same subject, the agendas should be distributed in both official languages prior to the meetings.  Following the meetings, minutes from both should be translated and distributed to ensure all employees have received the same information.  In these situations, special attention should be paid to any questions that were raised at the meetings that may not have been raised at the other.

What is my role as chairperson?
Your role as chairperson is to ensure that the participants have the option to communicate in their official language of choice. The responsibility for breaking the ice is also yours. Use both official languages from the time the meeting begins, and invite the participants to feel free to use their preferred official language.
For more about chairing meetings see the Guide for Chairing Bilingual Meetings Effectively

What is my role as a meeting participant?
The willingness of participants to use both official languages, their open-mindedness, their respect for other and a desire to work together can only have a positive impact on the atmosphere of meetings.
The use of both languages requires a spirit of cooperation from members of both language groups.  Participants could try some of the following suggestions:

  • If you are bilingual, you can play a key role in promoting the use of both official languages by using your other official language more often.  By doing this, you encourage participants from the other language group to use their first official language and you have the opportunity to practice your second official language.
  • Make presentations in your first official language and encourage discussion in your first language when circumstances are appropriate.
  • Use simple and commonly used terms to make it easier for participants of the other language group to understand your questions and presentations.

Participants’ open-mindedness based on the acceptance of both languages and on the respect that everyone deserves, will facilitate a greater use of both official languages at work.

I don’t feel comfortable speaking in my second language, do I have to?
Many people are concerned about their proficiency in their second official language.  This is not a problem for those who use both languages comfortably, but it is a different matter for those who do not speak their second official language so easily.
When speaking your second language, you may speak with a pronounced accent, make the occasional error or have to search for the exact work.  This should not be a problem. These show that you are not using your first official language and, more importantly, show that you are willing to communicate in your second language.  Your willingness to speak your second language will be appreciated by your colleagues of the other language group and will support you in your attempts.
If you understand the other official language but are not comfortable speaking it, you can also contribute to the bilingual atmosphere of meetings. For example, during a discussion a person could answer in English to a question directed to him or her in French. There is nothing to prevent colleagues from conducting conversations in this manner, both expressing themselves in their respective first official language.

How can I find out if my attempts of using both official languages at meetings are working?
If you want to evaluate your progress in the area, discreetly try to find out what some of the participants think of the way you chaired the meeting and of their own performance in using both official languages. Make a note of the methods that gave good results or turned out to be inappropriate, as well as of any suggestions or criticisms made.
To help you track your progress, you might also find it useful to ask one of the participants, to act as an observer at your meetings who can then provide you with some feedback after the meeting.
A few months later, you might wish to review with your group the perceptions they had at the beginning, and see, by their attitudes and behavior, whether things have improved or deteriorated.
If the behavior and attitude of some of the participants do not seem to be helping to create an atmosphere conducive to the use of both official languages, discuss this with them after a meeting. There may be good reasons for their behavior, even if it is only old work habits or an insufficient grasp of technical vocabulary. Ask them how you can help.