Could you lose unemployment benefits in Austria for refusing Covid-19 vaccine?

A letter by Austrian Labor Minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) states that unemployed people can’t turn down a job because it requires a Covid-19 vaccine.

Could you lose unemployment benefits in Austria for refusing Covid-19 vaccine?
A man gets a vaccine at the vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of the famous St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna on August 11, 2021, amid the novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

As the Covid-19 vaccination rollout continues across Austria, there are some jobs where employers are now requiring staff to be vaccinated against the virus.

In Lower Austria, there is a mandatory vaccination policy for employees of the federal state, and in Vienna and Styria, all new hires in health and social professions have to be vaccinated.

These rules are even starting to filter down into the general labour market with reports of other professions, such as in industry or trade, also searching for vaccinated staff. 

Der Standard is now reporting that Labor Minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) has written to the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS) to grant permission for unemployment benefits to be blocked if people refuse a job on the grounds that a Covid-19 vaccination is required.

READ MORE: What are Austria’s new tighter Covid measures for unvaccinated?

According to the report, unemployment benefits can be blocked by the AMS for up to six weeks if a role is refused by a job seeker on these grounds or if a job is not applied for because it requires a vaccination.

However, the AMS does not ask individuals about their vaccination status. These situations should only be reported if it becomes clear work is being turned down, and there are exceptions for people that cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons.

Additionally, if a candidate applies for a job but is turned down because he or she is not vaccinated, there is no risk of unemployment benefits being blocked.

The article in Der Standard states the move by Kocher is likely to instigate a debate about the rights of personal information, while also highlighting the AMS will not force anyone to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

There are currently 347,312 people in Austria registered as unemployed.

READ ALSO: Austria mulls banning unvaccinated from cafes, restaurants and gyms if ICU situation worsens

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Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Austria's national vaccination board changed the recommendations for when to get the fourth dose of coronavirus vaccines. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Over this weekend, Austria’s national vaccination board (NIG) released an updated recommendation on Covid-19 immunisation, changing its previous guidance for the fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccination slightly.

According to the NIG, booster vaccinations can be given to persons aged 12 years and older and are recommended for anyone who wants to protect themselves.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get the new adapted Covid-19 vaccine in Austria

In particular, the 4th vaccination is advised for persons over 60 years of age, persons at risk of severe disease progression (including pregnant women) and persons with an increased risk of exposure (healthcare workers, people in long-term nursing or care facilities, etc.).

The recommended interval between the third and fourth doses is from six months for people between 12 and 59 years old, NIG said. For those over 60 or risk patients, that interval is from 4 months.

What has changed then?

The main difference is the recommendation for those who have had a Covid-19 infection after their third shot.

“An infection in vaccinated persons usually leads to a booster effect (hybrid immunity), which can affect the optimal timing of the next vaccination.”, NIG said.

However, the board specified that infection could only be “counted” after it was confirmed with a PCR test.

READ ALSO: Austria announces new Covid-19 vaccination campaign

So, if you have had a PCR-confirmed infection after your second or third shot and it was an asymptomatic case, you may follow the regular vaccination scheme. However, you can also postpone your vaccination for up to six months.

If you had a symptomatic case, you may postpone your next dose for up to six months only if you are younger than 60 and not of a risk group.

NIG said: “Persons vaccinated three times who have also had a proven omicron infection show a good booster response and cross-immunity”.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

It added: In such cases, especially in persons under 60 years of age, the 4th vaccination within a period of up to 6 months does not achieve any further improvement in immune protection and thus, the 4th vaccination can be postponed accordingly.