What changes in France in May and need-to-know dates

The coming month will see additional pension reform protests, mosquitos, tax return deadlines and more

Key dates in May include the first tax deadline, the 76th Cannes film festival, the Roland Garros French Open, and the deadline to apply to be a volunteer at Paris 2024
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1. Tax return deadline

For people living in departments numbered one to 19, the deadline to file your French tax return is May 25. For other departments, the deadlines are in June.
The May deadline concerns departments coloured in dark blue on the map, below.

Read more: When is the deadline for filing your French tax return?

2. France’s minimum wage to rise

The minimum wage in France - called the Smic - will increase from May 1, in line with inflation.

It will increase by 2.19%, meaning the wage (before tax) will rise to €11.52 per hour up from the current €11.27. This will equate to around €30 extra per month for someone working a 35-hour week at minimum wage.

3. Key decision on pension reforms referendum

The Conseil constitutionnel, France’s highest constitutional authority, is set to hand down its decision on whether to hold a referendum (référendum d'initiative partagée, RIP) on the country’s controversial pension reforms. It is set to issue a decision on Wednesday, May 3.

It comes after the Conseil constitutionnel largely approved the government's pension reforms on April 15.

Read more: France's pension reforms largely approved as referendum rejected

4. Energy cheques continue to be sent

Energy cheques to help households pay for higher energy bills for electricity, gas, fuel oil, and wood burners are continuing to be sent this month.

They began to be sent to some departments in early April, and the process should be complete nationwide by late May. A total of 5.8 million households are expected to receive one.

Applications for a grant for woodfired heating are still being taken until May 31.

Read more: Electricity, gas, wood, oil: do you qualify for heating aid in France?

5. May 1 protests

Monday, May 1, is a bank holiday in France to mark the annual Fête du Travail, which is traditionally a time when people march to celebrate the progress made in protecting workers.

This year unions have promised a “tsunami of action” to protest what they see as the government’s continued intransigence over its pension reforms.

It is also the day when friends, realtives and neighbours give each other sprigs of Lily of the Valley.
Read more: Updated: Dates and sectors of upcoming pension strikes in France

Read more: Strike sees Vueling scrap two-thirds of its flights at French airport

6. Price of some cigarettes rises

The prices of many packs of 20 cigarettes and rolling tobacco will increase by 10 to 60 cents on May 1 in line with the government's intention to pass on inflation to tobacco. Most 20-cigarette packs are expected to see their prices rise by 30 to 40 cents, such as Winfield Red or Lucky Strike Blue. Other brands will see smaller or possibly larger increases.

Prices for 30 gram packs of rolling tobacco are also rising by around 30 cents. Larger pots may go up by more than a euro.

Packages of certain brands, such as Philip Morris, Winston or Marlboro, remain unchanged.

7. Mosquito season starting

The tiger mosquito season is usually expected to begin around May (the official ‘surveillance season’ starts on May 1), intensify into June and the rest of the summer, and last until November.

These mosquitoes are spreading across France and are especially common as temperatures rise. They can carry serious diseases such as dengue fever, so it is a good idea to avoid them where possible.

This includes taking measures to avoid standing water in your garden and protecting yourself when outdoors.

Read more: Warm French weather brings out mosquitoes: How to avoid being bitten

Read also: Briton infected with dengue fever in France: where are the risk areas?

8. Bank holidays

France has several bank holidays (jours fériés) in May. These include:

  • May 1: Fête du Travail
  • May 8: Fête de la Victoire (VE Day)
  • May 18: Ascension
  • May 29: Lundi de Pentecôte

Lundi de Pentecôte has an interesting background. It used to be a bank holiday, but you will no longer find it mentioned in labour law books. Its removal in 2008 was linked to a massive heatwave in August 2003 when around 15,000 mainly elderly people died in France.

You can read more about that here. This day off is now negotiated between employers and employees and referred to as journée de solidarité (day of solidarity).

When the official holiday was first done away with, many French people simply refused to go to work on May 29.

As a result many businesses now have the date booked in as either a compulsory holiday or have arrangements in place such as working two extra minutes on other days throughout the year to compensate for lost time on May 29.

Read more: Reminder: The dates of France's 2023 holidays and days off

9. School holidays

School holidays for schools in Zone B and Zone C end in May. The last day of holiday for Zone B is May 1, and for Zone C, it is May 8.

Read more: MAP: French school holidays 2023-24 by region

Schools in Zone A will end their holidays before May.

Credit: Service Public (DILA)

10. Deadline to apply to be a Paris 2024 volunteer

The deadline to apply to be a volunteer at the Paris Olympics and Paralympics 2024 is May 3. Applicants will be contacted in the autumn.

To register, you must meet three criteria: speak either French or English fluently; be at least 18 years old on January 1, 2024, and be available for at least 10 days while the Olympics (July 26 to August 11, 2024) and Paralympics (August 28 to September 8, 2024) are taking place.

To apply to be a volunteer, you can register your details here and then fill out a questionnaire, to help organisers work out which role would suit you best.

Read more: Want to be a volunteer at the Paris 2024 Olympics? Here’s how

11. Cannes Film Festival

The 76th annual Cannes Film Festival is set to take place from May 16 to 27, at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

The official selection of films can be seen on the festival website here. They include Asteroid City by Wes Anderson and The Old Oak by Ken Loach.

12. Night at the museum

The 19th edition of the Nuit européenne des musées (Long Night of Museums, an initiative created and supported by France’s culture ministry) is set to take place on May 13.

It sees museums open from nightfall to 01:00 the next day. Almost 1,300 museums in France will take part and offer a special programme of events and initiatives to help visitors discover (or rediscover) the exhibitions.

You can find out more about which museums are taking part and how to take part on the official website here.

13. Monaco F1 Grand Prix

The racing event will once again head to the principality from May 26-28, with the official race taking part on May 28. As usual, the Formula 1 cars will speed around the 3.337-kilometre Circuit de Monaco a total of 76 times.

Drivers Charles Leclerc (who is a native from the principality) and Max Verstappen are among the favourites.

14. Roland Garros French Open

The prestigious men's and women’s tennis competition will open on May 28, and last until June 11. It takes place at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris’s 16th arrondissement.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Iga Swiatek, and Caroline Garcia are some of the players to watch. Last year’s singles champions were Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek.

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