From contracts and salaries to parental rights and beyond, we outline all you need to know about Austrian employment law as an expat.
Fortunately for expats relocating to Austria for work, the country’s employment law is extremely well structured and easy to understand. Importantly, Austria is a nation that prides itself on a solid work-life balance. And with a high proportion of public holidays and generous holiday schemes, the country is a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
Whether you are in the process of applying for jobs in Austria or have just begun exploring the job market there, you will likely want to familiarize yourself with Austrian employment law. Luckily, this helpful guide provides all the essential information you need, including the following:
- Austrian employment law
- Foreign workers: your right to work in Austria
- Employment contracts in Austria
- Austrian wages and salary
- Austrian work hours
- Paid and unpaid leave under Austrian employment law
- Parental rights under Austrian employment law
- Social security and tax in Austria
- Protection from discrimination at work in Austria
- Joining a union in Austria
- Health and safety at work in Austria
- Training and development in Austria
- Terminating an Austrian employment relationship
- Company mergers and insolvencies in Austria
- Temporary, part-time, agency, and informal workers in Austria
- Making an employment law complaint as an Austrian worker
- Useful resources
Austrian employment law
Like most members of the European Union, Austria’s employment policy provides broad protection and rights for employees. Significantly, the approach is a complex mix of EU and Austrian legislation. This includes a combination of collective bargaining agreements, shop-floor agreements, and employment contracts. There are still written distinctions between white and blue-collar employees, however, these are losing their significance as the laws are becoming more unified. That said, employers are still resisting these changes as they will incur increased costs.
Foreign workers: your right to work in Austria
A foreign national (i.e. someone who is not an EEA-nation) must have an employment permit, a work permit, or a Red-White-Red Card. An Austrian employer may recruit a foreign national for employment in Austria, however, the individual must apply for approval and an employment permit from the regional employment office. This permit is valid for one year. The criteria depend on the current labor market, and whether it will benefit from employing a foreigner among other factors.
Foreign employees who are posted by their employer to work temporarily in Austria are covered by various provisions of Austrian employment law. This includes the condition that they must be paid at least the minimum remuneration that is to be paid to comparable workers by comparable employers in Austria.
Employment contracts in Austria
Interestingly, a written employment contract or statement of employment terms between the employer and employee is not necessary to secure a job in Austria. On the contrary, an oral agreement is acceptable between two parties. In Austria, collective agreements are legally binding contracts that represent both the employer and the employee. They create a balance of interests between employees and employers by establishing minimum working conditions that must be satisfied.
As per Austrian employment law, an employer cannot unilaterally change the terms and conditions of employment, unless explicitly stated and agreed upon in the contract in advance. Furthermore, if an employer wishes to change the employment conditions but the two parties cannot agree, dismissal with the option of altered conditions is a possibility. Essentially, this means that the employment contract is terminated. However, the employee will receive a new contract that includes the changed conditions, and if the employee does not accept, the termination stands.
Austrian wages and salary
Interestingly, Austria has no national minimum wage. Instead, the minimum salary for employees is set out in the respective collective agreements. Typically, the applicable collective agreement depends on the industry. If no collective agreement applies, the salary is based on the employment contract.
The average annual salary in Austria is approximately €48,000. According to a survey of skilled employees, conducted by the online job platform Stepstone, people working in finance, management, law, and IT earn the highest average salaries in Austria. Additionally, banking, energy, water supply, and chemical and oil processing jobs were among the highest-paid sectors in the country. Notably, under Austrian employment law, the monthly salary in Austria is paid fourteen times per year.
Austrian work hours
Typically, office hours in Austria tend to be from 09:00 to 17:00. However, Austrians often start earlier, with many sitting at their desks by 08:00. An eight-hour workday is standard, and lunch breaks are given by law. Provisions for overtime, holiday, and weekend pay vary depending upon each contract. Ordinarily, federal regulations limit the working week to a maximum of 48 hours. That said, collective bargaining agreements may supersede these.
Paid and unpaid leave under Austrian employment law
Holiday pay in Austria
Under Austrian employment law, employees get the benefit of one of the most generous annual leave entitlements in the world. Workers get 25 days’ paid holiday per year, which rises to 30 days after 25 years of service. Additionally, there are 13 paid public holidays every year to take advantage of. Furthermore, employers must pay employees their holiday pay before the holiday period begins. Employees who perform “heavy” night work are also entitled to additional days of annual leave.
Maternity and paternity pay in Austria
In Austria, women who are employed receive Wochengeld (cash benefit) of their average earnings as maternity benefit. Furthermore, employees who are insured under the compulsory social insurance system receive 100% of their average pay during maternity leave under the statutory maternity benefit. This is applicable after a woman has been employed for three months. Interestingly, it does not depend on nationality or residence.
Fathers are also entitled to Familienzeit (family time) which is one month of unpaid leave, however, they must live in the same household as the mother. For more information, see our Guide to social security in Austria.
Sick pay in Austria
By law, employees who are absent from work due to sickness or injury have a statutory entitlement to sick pay from their employer. Sick pay covers six to 12 weeks of full pay plus four weeks of half pay, depending on their length of service. Additionally, after the statutory sick pay period is up, employees are entitled to sickness benefit from the statutory social insurance system. This benefit is equal to 50% of the employee’s previous pay. However, if the employee has dependents, the amount may increase to up to 75% of their previous pay.
Unpaid leave in Austria
In terms of unpaid leave, there are no legal provisions regulating unpaid holidays in Austria. However, the contracting parties can agree on unpaid leave together. As mentioned above, as of 2019, Austrian fathers are able to take one month of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
Additionally, from 1 January 2020, Austrian employment law dictates that employees are able to take unpaid time off or work part-time to care for sick relatives without needing consent from their employer. This only applies to close relatives, for example, a spouse or children. Additionally, it only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Furthermore, employees must have been working for three months before they are eligible for care leave. During care leave, employees are entitled to a state-funded care leave allowance.
Parental rights under Austrian employment law
Interestingly, in Austria, women are not allowed to work during the eight weeks leading up to their due date or for eight weeks after giving birth. In cases of multiple births, caesareans, and premature births, this post-birth period rises to 12 weeks. Austrian employment law also prohibits employers from dismissing workers when they learn of pregnancy and during the two-year parental leave period. This protection ends four weeks after the end of parental leave.
Generally, employees who are breastfeeding must not work between 08:00 and 18:00, although exceptions exist in some sectors. Furthermore, expectant mothers cannot be made to do heavy work or health risk-associated jobs, graveyard shifts, weekends, or public holidays.
There are two choices for cash benefits. Parents can opt for a flat-rate scheme for mothers without their own income, or choose an income-dependent scheme where they receive benefits for up to one year after the birth of their child. For both of these, parents must be residents in Austria. Additionally, they must live in the same household. This is the same for both EU and non-EU foreigners living in Austria.
Social security and tax in Austria
Beneficially, Austria offers a high-level social security system that is contribution-based. The Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, and Protection oversees this system. Importantly, the system supports everyone who is gainfully employed, as well as their dependents.
In Austria, social security covers the following areas:
- maternity/paternity/parental benefits
- disability/work accident/survivors benefits
As of 2020, employees pay 18.12% of their gross salary, while employers pay 21.32% of the gross salary as the employer contribution. To find out more, you can read our Guide to getting insurance in Austria.
Protection from discrimination at work
Notably, Austria has adopted anti-discrimination legislation to ensure equality as a cornerstone of its constitution. Additionally, criminal protection against hate crimes has become stronger over the past decade. Austria adopts the 1965 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Essentially, the agreement put the onus on states to take concrete measures to combat discrimination based on color or ethnic origin.
Austrian efforts have been particularly lauded in the area of detecting online hate and support to victims of cyber mobbing. Additionally, Austria’s 2017 Roma Strategy has made strong efforts to combat antigypsyism. Austria’s Integration Act also came into play that year. This includes resources to integrate newcomers into the nation and assist with integration into the labor market.
Despite these government strategies, discrimination can happen anywhere. Whether it’s race, gender, age, religion, or ethnicity, Austrian citizens have the right to lodge a complaint. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can contact the Austrian Ombudsman Board and fill in the online complaint form.
Joining a union in Austria
Essentially, under Austrian employment law, employees have the right to form trade unions and the right to strike. However, Austria has no ingrained strike culture, and strike action is usually initiated by the trade union. Austria has one single trade union confederation, the ÖGB, which was founded in 1945 to overcome political divisions among unions. Notably, 27% of all employees in Austria belong to the trade union.
Importantly, participation in a lawful strike also amounts to a breach of contract under Austrian law. This is because any employee who goes on strike fails to fulfill his or her work obligations. Consequently, strike participation may entail legal consequences for the striking worker. Additionally, strikers cannot access unemployment or any other social security benefits while participating in collective action. However, the employer may not replace workers on strike, including temporary agency workers.
Health and safety at work in Austria
As per the ArbeitnehmerInnenschutzgesetz (Safety and Protection of Health at Work Act) employers are responsible for preventative measures for health and safety in the workplace. When necessary, an employer should consult a health and safety expert or occupational physician. The Labour Inspectorate oversees compliance.
Importantly, under Austrian employment law, in a workplace with more than 10 employees, a company must appoint a health and safety representative. In workplaces with more than 100 employees, a health and safety committee should also be set up.
Training and development in Austria
Notably, Austria rates highly in Europe for employer-sponsored training. Additionally, the country is known for its extensive systems of collective vocational skill formation with a strong tradition of full-time vocational schooling and apprenticeship training. Significantly, VET colleges in Austria enjoy an excellent reputation both with young people and Austrian employers. From a hiring perspective, the view on qualifications from VET colleges is often on a par with university degrees in Austria.
Terminating an Austrian employment relationship
As per Austrian employment law, there must be a reason for dismissal, for example, persistent neglect of duties. A dismissal terminates an employment relationship with immediate effect. Additionally, dismissals may happen verbally or in writing. An unjustified dismissal also terminates an employment relationship with immediate effect. However, you have the option to complain to the labor and social security court for your jurisdiction.
Essentially, white-collar workers should get at least six weeks’ notice. Meanwhile, blue-collar workers only get two weeks’ notice; they only get longer periods of notice if the collective agreement specifies it. As mentioned above, an employee cannot be dismissed based on reasons of discrimination. Furthermore, an employee cannot be let go for announcing a pregnancy or within four weeks of returning from maternity leave.
Leaving a job voluntarily
In accordance with Austrian employment law, an employee who resigns from their post must give notice to their employer. This notice period depends on the length of service. If this is less than two years, an employee needs to give six weeks’ notice. For more than two years, however, this rises to two months’ notice. And more than five years requires three months’ notice. When an employee gives their resignation, he or she must receive employment papers of salary statement, certificate of employment, deregistration from the health insurance fund, confirmation of work and reunumeration, a payslip, and a testimonial. Additionally, any outstanding monies must be paid.
Remarkably, every private sector employee working for over a month and paying contributions into the fund for over three years can claim severance pay upon termination. This excludes if a worker demands the termination, or if the termination is due to wrongful behavior.
Notably, a worker can leave money in the fund for later use. However, if the worker would like to take out payment, he or she must inform the fund in writing within six months after the termination. The government will then calculate the severance based on accumulated contributions.
The notice period for termination by an employer depends on the length of service. Generally, employers must observe a six-week notice period. This increases to five months after the employee has served for 25 years.
For mass redundancies, employers must notify their local branch of public employment service (AMS) 30 days before termination. The employer must file this notice if they plan to terminate:
- five employees in business units which usually have between 20 and 100 employees;
- 5% of employees in business units which usually have between 100 and 600 employees;
- 30 employees of business units which usually have more than 600 employees; or
- five employees who have reached the age of 50
Currently, under Austrian employment law, the retirement age is 65 years for men and 60 years for women. In the next decade, this age will eventually equal out. In Austria, early retirement is common, although this stipulates a monetary penalty in the overall pension. Conversely, people who work beyond the standard retirement age receive a bonus. To get a pension, the minimum contribution is 15 years. To find out more, have a peek at our Guide to retiring in Austria.
Company mergers and insolvencies in Austria
If the reorganization of a company includes a transfer of a business to another legal entity, then the Austrian Labour Contract Law Adaption Act applies. This requires existing employment relationships of the acquired business with all rights and obligations of pre-existing terms. This includes length of service. Accordingly, terminations on the grounds of the transfer of the business are unlawful under Austrian employment law.
Typically, employees can only object to the transfer of their employment in exceptional cases; for example, if the acquiring entity refuses to take over the company pension commitment. The seller has to inform the works council of the business transfer beforehand. The seller must also include in this disclosure, the time of the transfer, the reason for the transfer, the new employer, employees impact of the transfer, and any intended measures for employees. Generally, in Austria, corporate reorganizations have minimal impact on pensions or other benefits.
In the case of insolvencies, employees, freelancers, home workers, and apprentices can claim from the insolvency fund. This comes from the state-owned Insolvenz-Entgelt-Fonds-Service GmbH (IEF) which was specifically established for this purpose. The fund receives finance from the employers’ contributions and public funds.
Temporary, part-time, agency, and informal workers in Austria
In Austria, if your average weekly working hours fall below 40, this is officially Teilzeitarbeit (part-time work). By law, part-time employees have the same protection as full-time employees in Austria. Additionally, Mehrarbeit (extra work) is above that which is set out in the work contract and must be paid with the legal bonus of 25%. However, there are exceptions, such as if the extra hours balance out with agreed time in lieu. Additionally, part-time workers don’t have to work overtime if it conflicts with their own schedule; for instance, the employee’s child care arrangements.
Under recent changes to Austrian employment law, shifts of up to twelve hours are possible. If any total working time exceeds six hours, it must be broken up by a rest period of at least half an hour. This break is unpaid and not part of the working time. At the end of any working time, the employee should have an uninterrupted rest period of at least eleven hours. For agency workers, the binding rules of the company for which they provide their services apply.
Making an employment law complaint as an Austrian worker
Arbeiterkammer (AK) or the Chamber of Labour represents the interests of 3 million employees in Austria. You can either file a complaint with the Labor and Social Court or submit an application to the Equal Treatment Commission. It is up to you, but you can also choose to submit a complaint to both simultaneously. Additionally, you can file an application for legal protection at the Chamber of Labor or the trade union.
Ordinarily, the works council will initially try to employ alternative procedures to court in the first instance. Your complaint may first go through an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) between yourself and your previous employer. During the ADR, you may be accompanied by a trade union, works council member, or AK official (in the case of younger apprentices). Both informal and formal ADR practices are free for the employee, and the employer usually pays for the costs.
If you live in Vienna and your grievance needs to be dealt with in court, this will go through the Labour and Social Court. In every other federal state in Austria, labor issues go to the general regional courts.