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Bilingual Designation Policy

[toc Questions]

1. Who is eligible for bilingual bonus?

Employees who provide government services in more than one NWT Official Language and occupy a bilingual required position, or employees designated with bilingual preferred status are eligible for bilingual bonus on approval of their Deputy Head.

2. Are casual employees or summer students eligible for bilingual bonus?

Yes. If the employee is required by the Employer to provide services in more than one Official Language, they are eligible for bilingual bonus on approval of their Deputy Head. These casual employees and summer students will need to undergo language assessment. 

3. How much is the bilingual bonus?

$1200 pro-rated per annum, per employee regardless of how many Official Languages, other than English, the employee is able to communicate.

4. Which categories of employees are not entitled to bilingual bonus?

  • members of the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association (NWTTA);
  • employees of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation;
  • physicians as per Northwest Territories Medical Association;and
  • translators and interpreters.

5. I am fluent in an Indigenous language or in French. How can I apply for bilingual bonus?  What is the process to access it?

  • You need to seek approval from your supervisor and consult with the Official Languages Coordinator of your Department to assess the need for a bilingual employee in your division. 
  • If your manager is supportive, the manager may seek Deputy Head approval.
  • Deputy Head approval of the bilingual bonus for French is conditional on successful completion and meeting the required levels of a French language assessment. 

6. How are the language skills of bilingual employees assessed?

  • Individuals who are being appointed to a bilingual required position must undergo an assessment during the hiring process to confirm their language proficiency. This assessment varies by Official Language.
  • An employee’s ability to communicate in French will be assessed with exams developed specifically for the GNWT.
  • For Indigenous Languages, an employee must be considered by a fluent speaker of that language to have sufficient knowledge and skill to engage in conversation to get bilingual bonus. 

7. I grew up in a French speaking environment and my mother tongue is French. Do I still need to be tested?  

Yes. All employees eligible for bilingual bonus who provide services in French need to complete the French Language Proficiency Assessment, regardless of their linguistic background. 

8. Do I need to be re-tested each time I move from a bilingual required position to another?

Not necessarily. If you have a valid language proficiency assessment on file, you don’t need to be retested, as long as your language proficiency is at or above the level required of the position. However, you must be re-assessed if you are applying for or transferring to a bilingual required position that involves higher language skills than attained in your language proficiency assessment.

9. How long are the French Language Proficiency Tests valid?

5 years. However, when employee’s results indicate that the employee has complete fluency in French, the validity of the results of the test will be indefinite.

10. What are the minimum language proficiency levels for French bilingual required positions?

It depends on the position. The Department, in consultation with the French Language Coordinator and the Department of Finance, determine the appropriate proficiency levels required depending on the nature of the job.  These language proficiency levels are included in the position job description.

11. What are the minimum language proficiency levels required to be granted bilingual preferred status for French?

  •  Unless specified otherwise by the Department, Board or Agency, the minimum proficiency levels are:  
    •  intermediate level of oral expression and comprehension; 
    •  basic level in reading comprehension; and 
    •  basic level in writing expression. 

12. I am acting in a bilingual required position. Do I still need to comply with the language requirements of the position?


13. I was offered a transfer assignment in a bilingual required position. Do I still need to comply with the language requirements of the position?


14. What happens if an employee with bilingual preferred status doesn’t meet the minimum proficiency level?

The Department may discontinue the bilingual preferred status and the employee ceases to receive the bonus.

15. What happens when an existing employee in a bilingual required position doesn’t meet the language requirements of their position?

  • A Language Proficiency Attainment Agreement must be developed and signed by the employee and supervisor, outlining what the employee will do and what support or training (if any) will be provided, so that the employee may reach the desired level within one year. 
  • After having had an opportunity to participate in a Language Proficiency Attainment Agreement, if the employee is still unable to achieve the required proficiency, a reasonable job offer will be provided to the employee. If a reasonable job offer cannot be made to the employee, then the ‘Staff Retention Policy’ will apply. 

16. I receive the bilingual bonus for French (for either a bilingual required position or a bilingual preferred status). I want to maintain my French language skills and/or improve my mastery of the language. How can the GNWT support me achieving that goal?

We encourage you to take advantage of the French Language Refresher training for GNWT employees. The Department of Finance coordinates this training. Employees need approval from their supervisor prior to registration. If you want more information, please contact the French Language Coordinator of your Department, Board or Agency.  

17. Why do French speaking employees have to undergo comprehensive formal testing while Indigenous Languages speaking employees are not submitted to the same requirements?

  • French and Indigenous languages face different challenges in the NWT. Indigenous languages face pressure in society today where English and French are undeniably languages of wider communications, and are found in every aspect of life, from the media, to schools and the workplace. For that reason, it is neither possible, nor appropriate to implement the same level of language assessment. 
  • Through formal French Language proficiency testing, the GNWT is implementing one of the measures of the Court order issued by Justice M.T. Moreau in April 2006. The Moreau ruling stated that the GNWT had to provide a formal method of objective assessment of the oral and written capacity in French of employees occupying bilingual positions.