Focus on Use of Official Languages

The Focus series is a collection of reports that present the results of the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), broken down by theme. Focus on Use of Official Languages looks at results in the area of official languages and examines how they relate to results for other aspects of the workplace. The information provided in this report is intended to help target efforts to improve people management practices in the public service.

Results and Comparisons Over Time

The 2014 PSES asked six questionsSee Footnote 1 relating to the use of official languages. Table 1 shows the results for all six questions.

Table 1: Results for questions relating to the use of official languages (2008, 2011 and 2014)
Question number Question 2008
(%)
2011
(%)
2014
(%)

Table 1 Notes

Tableau 1 – note 1

n/a – Question not asked in the survey for this year, or question modified in the subsequent survey(s)

Return to Table 1 – Footnote * referrer

Q2 The material and tools provided for my work, including software and other automated tools, are available in the official language of my choice. 92 92 91
Q3 When I prepare written materials, including emails, I feel free to use the official language of my choice. 86 86 85
Q23 During meetings in my work unit, I feel free to use the official language of my choice. 86 87 88
Q33 When I communicate with my immediate supervisor, I feel free to use the official language of my choice. 92 92 93
Q51 During meetings in my department or agency, the chairpersons create an environment where I feel free to use the official language of my choice. n/aSee Table 1 – Note * n/aSee Table 1 – Note * 85
Q52 The training offered by my department or agency is available in the official language of my choice. 89 90 90

Results for questions relating to the use of official languages have remained stable over the three survey cycles. According to the 2014 survey results:

  • 85% of employees feel free to use the official language of their choice when preparing written materials, including emails (Q3), similar to the results for 2011 and 2008 (86% in both years);
  • 93% feel free to do so when communicating with their immediate supervisor (Q33), similar to 2011 and 2008 (92% in both years); and
  • 88% feel free to do so during meetings in their work unit (Q23), similar to 2011 (87%) and 2008 (86%).

In addition, 85% of employees agreed that, during meetings in their organization, chairpersons create an environment where they feel free to use the official language of their choice (Q51).

According to the 2014 survey results:

  • 91% of employees feel that the material and tools for their work are available in the official language of their choice (Q2), similar to 2011 and 2008 (92% in both years); and
  • 90% of employees feel that training offered by their organization is available in the official language of their choice (Q52), the same as in 2011 and similar to 2008 (89%).

Demographic Findings

First official language

Employees with French as their first official language were less likely than those with English as their first official language to provide positive responses to questions about the use of official languages. For example, 68% of employees who selected French as their first official language agreed that, when preparing written materials, they feel free to use the official language of their choice (Q3), compared with 93% of employees who selected English as their first official language.

Employees with French as their first official language were also less likely than employees with English as their first official language to indicate that, during meetings in their work unit, they feel free to use the official language of their choice (77%, compared with 94%, Q23) and that, during meetings in their organization, the chairpersons create an environment where they feel free to use the official language of their choice (73%, compared with 90%, Q51).

Region of work

Under the Official Languages Act  the following regions are designated as bilingual regions: the National Capital Region (NCR), parts of Northern and Eastern Ontario, the Montreal area, parts of the Eastern Townships, of the Gaspé and Western Quebec, as well as New Brunswick. Employees of federal institutions in these regions have the right to use either official language as their language of work.

Survey results show that, despite having the right to use either official language as their language of work, employees in bilingual regions do not necessarily feel free to do so, especially when their first official language is the minority language in their region.

Overall, results for questions relating to the use of official languages were the least positive for employees whose first official language is French and who work in NCR or other bilingual regions of Ontario, and for employees whose first official language is English and who work in bilingual regions of Quebec. For example, employees with French as their first official language and who work in the National Capital Region were the least likely to agree that they feel free to use the official language of their choice when preparing written materials (Q3) (see Figure 1). Employees with English as their first official language and who work in bilingual regions of Quebec were the least likely to indicate that the training offered by their organization is available in the official language of their choice (Q52) (see Figure 2).

Figure 1: Results for Q3 (When I prepare written materials, including emails, I feel free to use the official language of my choice) by first official language and bilingual region
Bar charts of the results for Question 3 by irst official language. Text version below:
Figure 1 - Text version

Figure 1 illustrates the proportion of employees who responded affirmatively to Q3 (When I prepare written materials, including emails, I feel free to use the official language of my choice) by first official language and bilingual region.

First official language National Capital Region Bilingual Eastern Ontario Bilingual Northern Ontario Bilingual Montreal Region Bilingual regions of Quebec outside Montreal region New Brunswick
English 92% 91% 93% 74% 69% 90%
French 63% 74% 85% 73% 80% 77%
Figure 2: Results for Q52 (The training offered by my department or agency is available in the official language of my choice) by first official language and bilingual region
Bar charts of the results for Question 57 by years of service. Text version below:
Figure 2 - Text version

Figure 2 illustrates the proportion of employees who responded affirmatively to Q52 (The training offered by my department or agency is available in the official language of my choice) by first official language and bilingual region.

First official language National Capital Region Bilingual Eastern Ontario Bilingual Northern Ontario Bilingual Montreal Region Bilingual regions of Quebec outside Montreal region New Brunswick
English 93% 90% 92% 70% 68% 91%
French 86% 81% 73% 88% 86% 85%

Language requirements of position

All positions in the federal public service are classified as either bilingual or unilingual. Bilingual positions require the use of both English and French.

Among employees who work in a bilingual position, those with French as their first official language tended to provide less positive responses to all questions about the use of official languages than did those with English as their first official language. The most pronounced difference between employees in bilingual positions whose first official language is French and employees in bilingual positions whose first official language is English relates to whether they feel free to the use of their official language of choice when preparing written materials (66% compared with 90%, Q3).

Key Observations

Freedom to communicate in official language of choice linked to positive perceptions of supervisor

Employees who agreed that they could communicate with their immediate supervisor in the official language of their choice generally had more positive opinions about their immediate supervisor than those who disagreed. For example, employees who agreed that they feel free to use the official language of their choice when communicating with their immediate supervisor (Q33) were more likely than those who disagreed to feel that they can count on their immediate supervisor to keep his or her promises (78% compared with 49%, Q31) and to indicate that they are satisfied with the quality of supervision they receive (79% compared with 50%, Q36).

Use of official languages within organization linked to perceptions of a respectful workplace

Employees who provided positive responses to questions about the use of official languages in their organization were more inclined than those who provided negative responses to believe that their organization supports and respects diversity. For example, employees who agreed that, during meetings in their organization, the chairpersons create an environment where they feel free to use the official language of their choice (Q51) were more likely than those who disagreed to indicate that their organization respects individual differences such as culture, work styles and ideas (82% compared with 61%, Q56) and that their organization implements activities and practices that support a diverse workplace (83% compared with 63%, Q55).

Employees who provided positive responses to questions about the use of official languages in their organization were also more inclined than those who provided negative responses to believe that they are treated with respect at work. For example, employees who agreed that the training offered by their organization is available in the official language of their choice (Q52) were more likely than those who disagreed to feel that, overall, their organization treats them with respect (83% compared with 62%, Q57).

Use of official languages within organization linked to efforts to prevent discrimination

Employees who agreed that their organization supports the use of both official languages, whether by making training available in the official language of their choice or by creating an environment during meetings where employees feel free to use the official language of their choice, were more likely than those who disagreed to feel that their organization does a good job of preventing discrimination. For example, 73% of employees who agreed that the training offered by their organization is available in the official language of their choice (Q52) indicated that their organization works hard to create a workplace that prevents discrimination (Q80), compared with 48% of employees who disagreed.

Methodological Notes

For the purposes of this report, results for the two most positive responses on the scale (e.g., “Strongly agree” and “Somewhat agree”) were added together to create a single percentage total for positive responses. Similarly, results for the two most negative responses on the scale (e.g., “Strongly disagree” and “Somewhat disagree”) were added together to create a single percentage total for negative responses. The totals used to calculate the percentages do not include the responses “Don’t know” and “Not applicable.”

The observations in this report do not necessarily indicate relationships of cause and effect, but they can provide insight into connections between different aspects of the workplace.

For additional results and for the distribution of respondents by demographic characteristics, consult the 2014 PSES website.

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