Austria offers its citizens some of the most generous holiday entitlements in the world, with some staff entitled to as many as 43 days per year, including public holidays. In a preview of XpertHR’s guide to employment law in Austria, Fiona Cuming provides eight highlights of employment law in the central European country.
Austria is one of the richest countries in the European Union. It has a population of 8.5 million, around one-third of which live in and around the capital, Vienna. Notable companies include the drinks company Red Bull, the jewellery maker Swarovski, and the oil and gas company OMV.
1. Minimum wage
There is no statutory national minimum wage, but binding minimum rates are set at sector level by collective agreements or by the Federal Arbitration Board.
The board currently sets a minimum wage rate for sectors such as janitors, domestic workers, au pairs and workers in private education and social care.
2. Holiday pay
Austrian staff enjoy one of the best annual leave entitlements in the world. Employees are entitled to 25 days’ paid holiday, rising to 30 days after 25 years’ service. In addition, there are 13 paid public holidays each year. Employers must pay employees their holiday pay before any period of holiday starts.
Employees who perform “heavy” night work are entitled to additional days of annual leave. The amount of such additional annual leave (typically two days) depends on the duration and nature of the heavy night work concerned.
3. Pregnancy and maternity
Pregnant employees are not allowed to work for 16 weeks: the eight weeks immediately before the expected day of childbirth and for eight weeks after the birth. In cases of multiple births, caesareans and premature births, this post-birth period rises to 12 weeks.
Employees who are insured under the compulsory social insurance system are entitled to receive a statutory maternity benefit, set at 100% of their average pay, during leave.
Employees who are breastfeeding must not generally work between 8pm and 6am, although exceptions exist in some sectors.
4. Disabled employees
Employers with 25 or more staff must employ at least one person with a disability for every 25 people that they employ. Employers that fail to meet this 4% statutory requirement face a hefty monthly fine for each employee that they should have employed in any month.
As in other EU countries, employers are obliged to take appropriate measures, where needed, to enable people with disabilities to have access to, participate in, or advance in employment, or to undergo training, unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer.
5. Sick pay
Employees are entitled to receive full pay during sick leave for between six and 16 weeks, depending on length of service, and half pay for a further four weeks.
After employees have exhausted their statutory sick pay, they are entitled to sickness benefit from the statutory social insurance system, if insured. Benefit is set at 50% of the employee’s previous pay, up to a ceiling. The amount may be increased to as much as 75% of previous pay, if the employee has dependent family members.
6. Betriebsrat or works councils
Works councils must be set up in all organisations employing five or more employees. However, employers face no legal sanctions if a works council is not created and in practice employees take the lead.
The size of the organisation dictates the size of the works council – for instance, an organisation employing 1,000 people would have a works council comprising 13 employees.
An employer must notify the works council at least one week before giving any employee notice of dismissal and it must consult with it if the works council requests it.
7. Severance payments
There are two statutory severance pay schemes. The “old” scheme, based on length of service, applies to all employment commenced before 1 January 2003, and the “new” scheme to employment begun on or after that date.
Under the new scheme, employers make a contribution of a certain percentage of each employee’s gross wages into an “employee provision fund”. On termination of employment, an employee has the option of receiving the accumulated monies as a lump sum, taking the balance to the next job or paying the amount into a private pension.
8. Social partnership
Beyond formal industrial relations at sector and company level, there is a national system of “social partnership”. These partnerships are based on cooperation and consultation between the state, employer groups and employee organisations, and they are often involved in originating and drafting employment legislation.