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WHAT CHANGES IN FRANCE

What changes in France in January 2022

As a new year begins there are lots of changes in France in January, from new health and Brexit rules to lots of new laws as well as sales and a festival with special cake.

A woman wearing a facemask walks past a storefront advertising discounts, on the first day of the winter sales in France
The winter sales start this month across France. Photo: Thomas Coex / AFP

New Year – January 1st, New Year’s Day, is a public holiday in France. Unfortunately this year it falls on a Saturday, which means no extra day off work. Monday, January 3rd, is a normal working day here. In fact, 2022 is not a good year for public holidays in France. Sorry.

Epiphany – Thursday, January 6th marks the Christian festival of epiphany. This is not a public holiday in France (unlike neighbouring Spain where they go mad for the Three Kings), but the day is marked with a special cake – the Galette des rois – which has a lot of fun and complicated rituals for consumption.

Galette des rois: Everything you need to know about France’s royal tart

Health rules – there are also changes to Covid-related rules that come into effect in January, from compulsory work-from home to changes to self-isolation and – in many areas including Paris – the return of mask rules for outdoor areas including the street.

Sales – The winter sales across most of France run from Monday, January 12th, to Tuesday, February 8th. The sales in Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, Meuse and Vosges run from Monday, January 3rd, to Sunday, January 30th.

Brexit – Britons who have been full-time residents in France since before December 31st 2020 must be in possession of a carte de séjour residency card by January 1st, 2022. From this date you can legally be asked for the card in a range of situations.

What changes for Brits in France in 2022?

Health Pass to Vaccine Pass – From January 15th, everyone over the age 18 who is eligible to receive a booster dose must receive one within a fixed period to be considered fully vaccinated – while the current Health Pass is set to become a vaccine pass. (provided parliament agrees). Find out how to book your booster dose HERE.

Schools go back – School holidays end on Monday, January 3rd across the whole country. There had been speculation that the return to school could be delayed in order to cut Covid infection rates, but the government has said that further disrupting children’s education would be a last resort.

European Union – France officially takes over presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months on January 1st.

Minimum wage – France’s minimum wage – known as SMIC – goes up 0.9 percent on January 1st – meaning a full-time worker will receive €1,603 gross, or €1,269 net per month, a take-home increase of €38 every month compared to the last increase on October 1st. The gross hourly rate will be €10.57. The basic state pension, meanwhile, will go up 1.1 percent.

Postage fees increase – Sending letters in France is set to become more expensive from January 1st. A green stamp, for a letter delivered in 48 hours in metropolitan France, will cost €1.16, compared to the previous price of €1.08, while the red stamp, for priority letters, will rise from €1.28 to €1.43.

New laws

There are also a whole raft of new laws that come into effect from January 1st. Here’s a summary of the main ones.

Mortgages – The maximum term for a mortgage in France will be limited to 25 years, while the amount of income that a household can devote to repaying it will increase from 33 percent to 35 percent – including the cost of insurance.

Car pollution taxes – from January 1st, anyone buying a new car that emits more than 128g of carbon dioxide per kilometre will have to pay a €50 one-off tax when they register the vehicle. Equally, vehicles weighing more than 1.8 tonnes will be taxed €10 per kilogramme over the limit.

New public service for eco-renovation – From January 1st, a new public service called France Renov’  becomes active. It is essentially an advice service for people looking to make energy efficient renovations to their homes. A number of low interest loans, available to anyone over the age of 15, will be made available for this purpose. 

Free contraception for women under 25 – All women under the age of 25 will be entitled to free contraception from January 1st. Previously only minors were entitled to this. Some 3 million women will benefit from the new measure. Read our explainer on the reform HERE

A&E fees – anyone who is treated at A&E in France but not admitted to hospital for further treatment will be charged a flat fee of €19.61 at the time of discharge, known as the forfait patient urgences (FPU) a fee that will usually be covered by the patient’s top-up health insurance.

Mon espace santé – Following a pilot study in three departments, “Mon espace santé” will be available to everyone from January. It is intended to facilitate procedures and exchanges with healthcare professionals for better care, and will replace the Dossier médical partagé (DMP).

Better protections for digital consumers – If you are an avid purchaser or mobile apps, digital subscriptions (including streaming services) and video games, then this is good news. A new law that comes into force on January 1st means that you can ask for compensation, replacement or repair if the product doesn’t conform to the description given pre-purchase. The law also means that any digital good purchased must not require new software updates for continued use. Consumers must be informed of planned software updates.

Culture pass expanded – The French culture pass is being extended to 15-17 year olds, whereas previously, only 18-year-olds could benefit. This scheme is designed to allow young people, with EU nationality, to receive money to benefit from cultural activities in France. It is free to sign up. French schools will also receive a certain amount of money, per month, per student, to facilitate cultural excursions. 

Water, water – Surprisingly, this is not mandatory already … From January 1st, anyone who is thirsty need only ask at a bar or restaurant for a free glass of water. “Food and beverage establishments are required to visibly indicate on their menu or on a display space the possibility for consumers to request free drinking water.”

Many restaurants, especially in Paris, charge a lot for mineral water, so if you’re happy to drink tap water with your meal – and it’s perfectly safe – make sure you ask for une carafe d’eau or un pichet d’eau to avoid being brought expensive mineral water.

READ ALSO Six things to know about tap water in France

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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in August 2022

The long sultry days of summer are usually fairly quiet in France, as parliament breaks for the summer and huge swathes of the population head to the beach. But 2022 is not an ordinary year - here's what changes in August.

What changes in France in August 2022

End of the health pass

Senators have now ratified a new health bill that formally ends the Covid-19 health emergency and repeals emergency laws introduced at the height of the pandemic.

In practical terms, it means that – from August 1st – the suspended vaccine pass cannot be reimposed, nor can mask mandates, lockdowns, curfews, or other health measures allowed for under emergency legislation. Masks for hospitals and health establishments and on public transport remain ‘strongly recommended’, however, and private businesses as always have the right to require customers to wear a mask.

Mandatory health checks at French borders may, however, be reintroduced if necessary.

No more conseil scientifique

As a consequence of the repeal of the emergency health laws, France’s conseil scientifique (scientific council) which advised the government throughout the Covid-19 crisis, will be disbanded. It currently has no replacement, but a new body for monitoring, anticipating and advising on new health crises may be formed.

Savings

A small boost for savers: the interest rate for the Livret A savings scheme – a tax free instant access savings account available to all – doubles from 1 percent to 2 percent, a level unseen since 2011.

Rates for the Livret d’épargne populaire, meanwhile, will increase from 2.2 percent to 4.6 percent. 

Minimum wage

Due to rising inflation, the minimum wage – known as the Smic – scheme automatically rise by 2.01 percent on August 1st – its fourth increase this year. After taxes and social charges, workers on Smic will see their hourly pay increase from €8.58 to €8.76 – or €1,329 per month for a full-time employee.

Fuel prices

Plans to phase out the 18 cents per litre fuel rebate on petrol (gasoline) and diesel in response to rising oil prices were originally supposed to take effect from July 31st. Good news – the current rate has been extended to August 31st, after which it will be increased to 20c per litre in September and October and then drop to 10c per litre. 

READ ALSO Why this weekend might be a good time to fill up your car in France

Macron bonus

The so-called Macron bonus (prime Macron) – introduced in 2018 as an optional one-off tax and social charge-free bonus given by employers to boost spending power following the Yellow Vest protests and repeated every year since – has been renamed, recalculated and made permanent. 

From August 1st, it will be called the Prime de partage de la valeur, and employees in profit-sharing schemes can receive up to €6,000 as opposed to the current €2,000 maximum. Those not on such schemes can receive up to €3,000. From 2024, the bonus payment will be subject to taxes and social charges.

MPs break

In a normal year, a Parliamentary session runs from the first working day of October to the last working day of June. This is not an ordinary year. France’s National Assembly was supposed to rise for the summer on July 27th. But the current extraordinary session of Parliament has been extended until August 7th to allow for debate on the government’s bill on purchasing power. 

MPs will not return to the hemicyle until October 3rd, with the government deciding not to reconvene parliament in September for the first time in 20 years, to give itself time for consultation on a range of bills.

READ ALSO The 8 signs that August has arrived in France

Public holiday

The Catholic festival of Assumption is a public holiday in France. It is on August 15th which this year is a Monday, allowing a nice long weekend for the people who are still working in August.

School holidays

Schools remain on holiday until the end of August, with kids returning to the classroom on Thursday, September 1st.

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