As 2020 gets underway, this article summarises the most important developments in Austrian employment law in recent and upcoming months.
Entitlement to a ‘dad’s month’
In the past, one month’s parental leave (known as ‘dad’s month’) could only be agreed between employer and employee, so the employer had to specifically agree on this. For births taking place on or after 1 December 2019, however, fathers have a legal right to take parental leave for one month within eight weeks following the birth of their child. The employee must inform the employer of his intention to take a dad’s month three months before the predicted date of birth at the latest. After the birth, the father must immediately notify his employer. The actual start date of the dad’s month must be communicated not later than one week after the birth. During the dad’s month the father receives no payments from his employer but a ‘family time bonus’ of EUR 22,60 per day paid by the Austrian health insurance. From the time of announcement of the intention to take a dad’s month (but at the earliest four months before the predicted birth date) until four weeks after the end of the dad’s month, the father is generally protected against termination and dismissal.
Parental leave times: new regulations on claims based on the length of service
Since August 2019, employers are obliged to recognise time taken on parental leave for salary calculations and other entitlements based on length of service (e.g. continued remuneration in the case of sickness, calculation of notice periods, etc). These periods of parental leave must be taken into consideration for all such claims to the extent they were actually taken, until the child’s second birthday at the latest.
Entitlement to care leave or part-time care leave
Since 1 January 2020, employees in organisations with more than five employees have a legal entitlement to take care leave or part-time care leave for up to two weeks, if they have been working for their employer for at least three months. The employer’s consent is no longer required. In addition, in the event of extended need for care, an agreement can be concluded with the employer. If no such agreement can be reached during the first two weeks of care leave, the employee is nevertheless entitled to take care leave or part-time care leave for another two weeks. While an employee is taking care leave or part-time care leave the employer is not obliged to pay renumeration (or is only required to pay the remaining part of working time in the case of a part-time care leave). The employee is entitled to a payment equivalent to the amount of unemployment benefit from the Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs during care leave or part-time care leave.
Entitlement to continued pay in the event of disaster relief work
Since 1 September 2019, employees have an entitlement to continued remuneration if they are prevented from doing their jobs because they are serving as volunteer members of any emergency aid organisation, rescue service or voluntary fire brigade during any major catastrophic event or as members of a mountain rescue. A ‘major catastrophic event’ is defined as a situation in which more than 100 members of the organisation in question need to be operational during a continuous period of at least eight hours. A further prerequisite for continued pay is the conclusion of an agreement between employee and employer on the extent and the scheduling of the leave.
Good Friday and ‘personal holiday’
Until March 2019, Good Friday was a public holiday according to the Austrian Rest Periods Act for Protestants and members of the Old Catholics Church (Altkatholische Kirche). According to a European Court of Justice decision (C-193/17 dated 22 January 2019), only granting a paid public holiday on Good Friday to employees who are members of these two churches constitutes discrimination on the grounds of religion and is therefore prohibited under EU law.
As a result, an amendment of Section 7a of the Austrian Rest Periods Act means all employees are now allowed to take one day off once every holiday year; in return, Good Friday is no longer a public holiday. This ‘personal day off’ is deducted from the employee’s statutory paid holiday entitlement. The employee must inform the employer in writing at least three months in advance of the desired date but in contrast to regular paid holiday which has to be agreed between employer and employee, the date can be set unilaterally by the employee. For 2020, the three-months period to choose to take a ‘personal holiday’ on Good Friday ended on 10 January 2020.
New list of occupational groups with privileged immigration status
In general, third-country nationals who intend to work and live in Austria for a period exceeding six months, need a certain minimum number of ‘points’ under a special Federal points system. This system awards points according to their special qualifications and skills, work experience, language skills and age. For certain occupational groups, the generally required minimum number of points is reduced to facilitate the immigration of well-qualified key workers to Austria. For 2020, the following occupational groups have this status, according to the most recent Ministry for Work and Social Affairs order:
graduate engineers (especially) in mechanical engineering, heavy current engineering, data processing, light current engineering and communications engineering and economics;
CBA for Salaried Employees in the retail business: new payroll / salary system
The CBA for Salaried Employees in the Trade Business provides for a new payroll / salary system, requiring a transfer of all employees to the new system no later than 1 December 2021. Given the rather substantial measures involved, many companies will already start preparing the transfer in 2020. The new system includes a new definition of occupational groups and the abandonment of the current salary panel system.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.