Austria: Coronavirus: Impacts on employment in Austria

24 March 2020 | newsletters

Summary of potential coronavirus measures that employers can take:

Information current as of: 23.03.2020

Home office / telework

Employees who telework are normally "on duty", they are simply working from home. Hence there is neither a reduction of working time nor any compensation or subsidy by the Austrian state.

  • This measure is applicable to white-collar and blue-collar workers (where feasible);
  • The change in the place of work generally requires an agreement between the employer and the employee. If the employment contract provides for a unilateral relocation clause in favour of the employer, the employer may also instruct the employee to work from home instead of from the office, provided this is possible given the nature of the work. The same applies, if the employment contract does not contain such a relocation clause, but the place of employment is so broadly defined that the employee's place of residence is also covered;
  • The employee's home office generally needs to be "fit for the purpose" (i.e. it needs to comply with occupational health and safety requirements), as the employer continues to be under the obligation to provide a safe workplace.

Special care time (Sonderbetreuungszeit)

The employer may grant special care time to employees looking after children (up to the age of 14 years) due to the closure of kindergartens and schools and who do not carry out any activities that are "supply critical" ("versorgungskritisch"). The employer's consent is required.

  • This measure is applicable to white-collar and blue-collar workers;
  • Special care leave may be granted for up to three weeks starting from the date the school or kindergarten has been closed by decision of an authority. The period of three weeks is considered the maximum duration. In our view, therefore, the employer may also grant special care time for a shorter period, such as one week or even just a day;
  • The employer is entitled to compensation from the Austrian state of one third of the remuneration paid to employees during the special care time. The entitlement is capped at the maximum monthly contribution basis according to the general Social Security Act – ASVG (2020: EUR 5,370);
  • Deadline for application: The claim for compensation must be submitted to the competent authority within six weeks from the day the schools and kindergartens are reopened.

Short-time work

In case of economic difficulties related to COVID-19, short-time work subsidies can be applied for at the Labour Market Authority (Arbeitsmarktservice AMS) for three months (an extension for a further three months is possible). Contrary to the previous (rather strict) legal requirements, the COVID-19 Act authorises the AMS to stipulate more generous provisions for the granting of short-time work subsidies in a new directive.

  • This measure is applicable to white-collar and blue-collar workers;
  • Reduction of working time to 0 hours (i.e. complete absence from work) is temporarily possible; however, the reduced normal working time must on average be between 10 % and 90 % of the normal working time under the CBA;
  • Remuneration for short-time work amounts up to 80–90 % of the employee's net remuneration prior to the short-time work and is paid by the employer;
  • The AMS compensates the employer almost entirely for the additional costs that arise in comparison with the actual working time (short-time work subsidy – Kurzarbeitsbeihilfe). This compensation is capped at the maximum monthly contribution basis according to the general Social Security Act – ASVG (2020: EUR 5,370);
  • Restrictions regarding termination rights apply;
  • The application form and so-called social partner agreement need to be filed to the AMS.

Mass redundancy procedure (Frühwarnsystem)

If other options are not reasonable for an employer and as a result it is required to dismiss employees (white-collar or blue-collar) or to conclude mutual termination agreements, any and all obligations in accordance with the AMS early warning system remain unaffected (this means at least five employees in a business unit with between 20 and 100 employees, at least 5 % in a business unit with between 100 and 600 employees, at least 30 employees in a business unit with more than 600 employees, or at least five employees who are older than 50 regardless of the size of the business unit, within 30 days in each case), the employer must notify the AMS in advance.

  • Upon notification of the AMS, a waiting period of 30 days must be observed before the notices of termination are served or mutual termination agreements are concluded (or offered);
  • If these requirements are not complied with, the dismissals and mutual terminations are null and void.

Quarantined employees:

In case employees are quarantined in accordance with the Epidemic Act (Epidemiegesetz), the employer must pay the remuneration and is entitled to a reimbursement of this continued remuneration.

  • The remuneration claim/application must be received by the authority within six weeks after the quarantine has been terminated at the latest, otherwise the employer loses its entitlement;
  • No claim for reimbursement if the quarantined employee provides services by way of home office;
  • No claim for reimbursement if the employee is ill, but not quarantined by an authority.

This article is part of our coronavirus-focused legal updates – visit our coronavirus infocorner to get more info!

Klaus Cavar

Attorney at Law

T: +43 1 534 37 50157
k.cavar@schoenherr.eu

legal service:

labour & employment

country:

austria - vienna