What you need to know about internal regulations

The internal regulations are a written document created by the employer. They set the rules of conduct within the company in terms of health, safety and discipline. They also define the nature and scale of the sanctions that can be imposed by the employer.

While relatively standard, the employer nevertheless has quite a significant degree of latitude in the drafting of this document, with the exception of a few terms and conditions defined by law or by case law precedent.

Let’s take a look at the main principles surrounding the internal regulations.

Are the internal regulations mandatory?

Internal regulations must be put in place in companies or establishments with 50 or more employees (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1311-2). Prior to the Pacte law of 22 May 2019, the threshold was 20 employees.

NB: if internal regulations have not been put in place by a company having reached the required number of employees the employer may not give notice of any disciplinary sanction except for dismissal which is provided for in the French Employment Code. (Court of Cassation, Employment Division, 23 March 2017 no. 15-23090)

For how long must the required number of employees have been reached?

The number of 50 employees must have been reached for 12 consecutive months.

This rule means that when the number of employees falls below 50 for a period of time, the 12-month period starts again from zero when this number reaches 50 once again (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1311-2). The obligation to have internal regulations applies at the end of a new period of 12 months.

Example: If the threshold of 50 employees is reached on 1st January 2021 and during the following 12 consecutive months, the employer must establish internal regulations by 1st January 2023 at the latest.

What happens in companies with fewer than 50 employees?  Although not mandatory, voluntary implementation is still possible. This must then be carried out under the same conditions as in companies with at least 50 employees.

What if the company is owned by a ESU? When several companies do not reach the minimum number of employees but constitute an economic and social unit (ESU) which, in turn, reaches the required number of employees, the component companies must draw up joint internal regulations which apply within each of them individually (ministerial note of 16 May 1983).

Need help setting up your company’s internal regulations?   Contact our team of experts!

How can the internal regulations be put in place?

The employer may draw up internal regulations with provisions common to all staff or to all establishments if the undertaking consists of multiple establishments. The employer may also decide, if necessary and justified, to put in place specific provisions for certain categories of staff or for certain establishments (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1311-2).

The employer must, in all cases, comply with four mandatory steps.

Failure to do so is punishable by a fine provided for class 4 infringements, as is failure to put in place internal regulations. (French Employment Code, Art. R. 1323-1)

NB: It may sometimes be necessary to modify the internal regulations to adapt them in response to changes within the company or to legislation, regulations or agreements. In this case, the procedure applicable to the amendment of the internal regulations is identical to that defined for their preparation (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1321-4).

1. Consultation of the social and economic committee

The employer must consult the social and economic committee (CSE) and submit the wording for opinion (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1321-4 para. 1.

In practice: Consultation of this Committee is not a condition for the validity of the document. The internal regulations cannot be enforced upon employees and cannot serve as a basis for disciplinary sanctions until such consultation has been carried out. Once this formality has been complied with, the employer can then effectively introduce the internal regulations. (Court of Cassation, Employment Division, 21 September 2022, no. 21-10718)

And if there is no social and economic committee? the employer alone drafts the internal regulations under the supervision of the employment inspector.

2. Referral of the matter to the employment inspectorate

Once the social and economic committee (if any) has been consulted, the employer sends two copies of the internal regulations, together with the opinion of the committee, to the employment inspector (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1321-4 para. 3. The inspector checks their legality and determines whether they are compliant or non-compliant. In certain situations, the inspector may make observations to the employer or request adjustments.

The employment inspector gives notice of his reasoned decision to the employer and to the members of the social and economic committee within 2 months of receipt of the request (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1322-1-1 and R. 1321-6).

Similarly, the internal regulations form part of the documents that must be made available to the employment inspectorate by the employer. The employment inspectorate may, at any time, monitor the regulations and require the withdrawal or modification of any clauses it considers contrary to the provisions of the French Employment Code (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1322-1).

In practice: an employer who modifies the internal regulations as required by the employment inspectorate does not have to consult the elected employee representatives again. (Court of Cassation, Employment Division, 19 January 2022, no. 20-12196)

3. Filing with the registry of the employment tribunal

The employer must also file the internal regulations with the registry of the employment tribunal (conseil de prud’hommes) with jurisdiction over the company or establishment concerned (French Employment Code, Art. R. 1321-2).

4. Publication of the internal regulations

Finally, the employer must inform employees about the internal regulations via any means (posting, intranet, etc.). (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1321-4, para. 3 and R. 1321-1). 

Entry into force of the internal regulations

The internal regulations indicate the date on which they enter into force.

This date must be one month after the completion of the filing and circulation formalities (French Employment Code, Art. L, 1321-4, para. 2). 

Content of the internal regulations

Established by the employer according to the workforce and the activity, the internal regulations are specific to each company.


They must nevertheless comply with the provisions of the applicable laws, regulations and collective agreements and therefore include certain mandatory clauses (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1321-1 and L. 1321-2):

  • Measures for the enforcement of health and safety regulations within the company or establishment (e.g., a smoking ban within the premises)
  • Measures relating to employee participation in the restoration of working conditions that protect the health and safety of employees (e.g., the wearing of face masks during an epidemic)
  • Rules concerning discipline (e.g., respect for working hours) and the nature and scale of the sanctions that may be imposed by the employer (e.g., duration of disciplinary suspension)
  • Provisions concerning compliance with disciplinary procedures (e.g., invitation to attend a preliminary interview) for the employee if the employer envisages a sanction
  • Provisions concerning employees’ defence rights (e.g., assistance to employees during disciplinary proceedings)
  • Legal provisions concerning the prohibition, prevention and punishment of psychological and sexual harassment and sexist acts
  • A reminder of the existence of the whistleblower protection system
  • Date of coming into force

As regards the drafting of the internal regulations, the main principle is that the restrictions that the document imposes on employees must be justified by the nature of the task to be performed and proportionate to the purpose sought (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1321-3 (2)). Failing this, the clauses are not considered to be valid and must be reviewed.

Want to draft your company’s internal regulations?   Contact our team of experts!

Are internal regulations binding?

Yes, internal regulations are binding on all employees of the company, whether they are hired before or after their entry into force. Those who do not comply with their provisions are exposed to the disciplinary procedures and sanctions set out therein.

Trainees and apprentices are also subject to the provisions of the internal regulations, as well as temporary employees and workers from external companies for measures concerning health, safety and general discipline.

Charters, memoranda and internal regulations

documents used to communicate official information to employees about life at the company.

Company charters for their part allow the employer to establish rules of good conduct, in line with the company’s values: IT charter, working from home charter, driving rules, code of conduct, ethics charter, whistleblowers charter, etc.

Charters and memoranda are not mandatory and, in principle, have no legal value unless the employer makes additional commitments to the employees.

They may however be treated as additions to the internal regulations if their content is of a general and permanent nature in matters covered by the internal regulations. They may also contain requirements the breach of which may result in disciplinary sanctions.

In such a case and in order to make them enforceable upon employees, the procedure for drawing up the document (charter or memorandum) must be the same as that for the implementation of the internal regulations (French Employment Code, Art. L. 1321-5). This is a condition governing the validity of sanctions imposed on the basis of memoranda or charters.

Want to draft a charter on IT, whistleblowers or limits on working from home?   Contact our team of experts!
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