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Mag. Patrycja Gamsjaeger, LL.M.
Attorney at law in Vienna

The coronavirus (COVID- 19) continues to spread across the world. In Austria the Government has announced a number of wide ranging measures affecting the society and individuals across the country. As it is continuously adjusting the policies to respond to the challenge, employees as well as their employers in the working world need a guidance on how best to address the situation.

In this blog post the attorney at law Mag. Patrycja Gamsjaeger answers the most frequently asked questions concerning the labour law in Austria.

However, the following overview doesn’t replace a legal advice. The author does not quarantee the topicality correctness and completeness of the information (per 18th of March 2020).

Patrycja Gamsjaeger-attorney at law - image blog post- rights of employees in Austria in times of the corona virus 2020

My employer offered me a consensual termination of my employment relationship due to the coronavirus. However I heard about a sort of „Short Time Work“. What does it mean? Should I agree to the consensual termination?

Corona Short Time Work“ („Kurzarbeit“) is a special short time working model which refers to reducing working hours in businesses for a limited period of time (currently up to three months, however it can be extended if necessary) in order to response to coronavirus, to keep as many employees as possible in employment and thus to avoid the (consensual) terminations.

Corona Short Time Work“ allows a reduction of working hours (to as low as zero), while maintaining the employment relationship and granting a (almost) full wage compensation to employees.The employer can implement the „Corona Short Time Work“ in its company by contacting the Austrian Labour Market Service (AMS). The employee then doesn’t need to terminate the emplyoment relationship (including the consensual termination).

Corona Short Time Work“ is limited to three months, however if necessary, further three months can be added. The Labour Market Service (AMS) supports the payment during the „Corona Short Time Work“. Avarage working hours over the whole period can be reduced by as much as 90 % of previous hours. Depending of previous earning the emplyoee can receive 80-90 % of his/her previous monthly net earnings. There is no support for the income above EUR 5.370.- Also, special remuneration (13th /14th payments) are payed in full, based on previous earnings.

I am afraid of the coronavirus but our company isn’t under quarantine. Am I nevertheless allowed to stay at home?

The answer is no, unless there is a concrete risk of infection. Also, if the emplyee suffers form a chronic disease and is exposed to an aboce- average infection, he/she should contact immediately his/her physician. The latter may confirm the risk of infection by writing which can be then sent tot he employer without delay.

Please keep also in mind that the employer is obliged to protect the employee from the infection (employer’s duty of care) e.g. by agreeing to a home office, a short term leave of absence, etc.

I am not sick, however the employer wants to send me home due to the difficult situation around the coronavirus. Is he allowed to do it?

In general the employer is allowed to send the employee home however in such a case it is not a sick leave but a leave of absence („Dienstverhinderung“). As a consequence, the employee does not need to send any confirmation of a sick leave from a doctor to the company and the employer is obliged to continue to pay the salary.

I’ve got two children aged 9 and 11. Do I have the right to stay at home if the schools are closed?

Recently, the Austrian Government announced that employees with care obligations for children under the age of 14 are able to take paid special care leave for up to three weeks.

It must be however kept in mind that there is no reason for a leave of absence in case of an alternative childcare, eg. in kindergarten or in school. It is therefore strongly advised to get a mutual agreement on this matter in order to be granted special care leave. As a consequence, the employer is obliged to continue to pay the salary in full.

I am unable to work due to the quarantine. Will I nevertheless get my salary?

If the employee is unable to work because of the quarantine due to the coronavirus, the employer still has to pay the salary. This is also valid fo the so – called independent contractors (freie Dienstnehmer).