What's different about May's final jour férié

A nurse in uniform helping an elderly, wheelchair-bound, man put on a shoe

Annual day of solidarity expected to raise some €2.42billion to help the elderly and vulnerable in France

Monday, May 21, is the last of the month's jours fériés-filled public holidays - but, since 2004, it has been a little different to France's standard nationwide days off.

It is the annual 'day of solidarity', in which thousands of workers in companies across the country give up a day's pay to help the elderly and vulnerable.

Following 15,000 deaths during a summer heatwave in 2003, Lundi de Pentecôte (Whit Monday) was decreed in 2004 to no longer be a bank holiday in France, but a symbolic one, with workers donating any pay they earned that day to help the elderly and vulnerable.

Four years later, the day's public holiday status was reinstated for businesses that wished to retain it as one. But those businesses have to 'repay' the holiday by giving up a day's worth of time off in lieu of pay, or working back the seven hours they have had off.

In return for not paying the staff that day, employers pay a sum equivalent to 0.3% of their gross annual salary budget to the government.

This year's solidarity day is expected to raise €2.42billion for the contribution solidarité autonomie (CSA), and another €765.4million for the contribution additionnelle de solidarité pour l’autonomie (CASA), according to the state body charged with collecting it.

Since the first solidarity day in 2004, more than €30billion has been raised to support the elderly and vulnerable, collection agency the Caisse nationale de solidarité pour l’autonomie (CNSA) revealed on its website.

Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish holiday held 50 days after Passover. For Christians, it is celebrated 10 days after Ascension Thursday, and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and followers of Jesus.

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