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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s new rules around sick leave for employees? 

Austria has reintroduced the possibility employees can register for sick leave by telephone, in light of the increase in Covid-19 cases in the country. Here's what you need to know.

You can now call your doctor to get sick leave, rather than make a visit in person (Photo by René Ranisch on Unsplash)
You can now call your doctor to get sick leave, rather than make a visit in person (Photo by René Ranisch on Unsplash)

The new legislation was introduced in November last year, and was in place until July 2021. But given the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Austria the government has deemed it necessary to again relax the rules around calling in sick.

What is the new rule?

The new legislation allows employees to call their doctor in order to be officially signed off sick, rather than visit them for an appointment. Over the summer it was only possible for employees to do this if they believed they might be suffering from a Covid-19 infection. For other illnesses they needed to see a doctor to get a sick note but now they have the option of calling once again.

Can’t I normally call in sick by telephone? 

In general if you need to take some sick days from work, the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK) must be notified for official sick leave as well as your employer. 

According to the ÖGK you must go to a doctor to “determine the illness and the associated incapacity for work”. 

It cites as an example a sprained ankle, which would stop a roofer from working, but would not stop an employee carrying out a desk job. 

The sick leave begins on the day the doctor reports you as sick. In most cases in Austria, people use their family doctor. The doctor writes a sick note and notifies the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK) that you will be off work. 

Supposing I want to use a different doctor?

If you want to choose a doctor other than your family doctor to establish if you should be on sick leave, you as the patient must send written confirmation of the sick leave to the ÖGK by post or fax or hand it in to an ÖGK customer service point. However, some elective doctors will do this for their patients.

What if I am in hospital?

If you have been admitted  as an inpatient admission to a hospital, spa or rehabilitation facility, this automatically leads to a notification of illness with the ÖGK.

How long could this new legislation last?

The legislation is in place until the end of the year, but ÖGK chairman Andreas Huss said in an interview with broadcaster ORF’s Ö1 channel  that the new measures could be in place until the end of the fourth wave in Austria. He said he could even imagine virtual doctor’s appointments, using video conferencing, becoming a permanent solution in determining sick leave. According to the Krone Zeitung, this has already been agreed in some federal states.

Won’t people take advantage of the fact they don’t have to see a doctor in person any more? 

It was also possible to register as sick with a doctor over the phone in 2021 until the end of June. The Medical Association believes telephone sick leave was previously “handled responsibly” and says there was also no increase in sick leave, according to the Krone Zietung. 

What if I want to go to the country or to visit family abroad during sick leave?

You must inform the ÖGK if you wish to change your place of residence during your sick leave, giving your exact address.  If you want to leave Austria you need to get consent by submitting an application in person, by post or to a customer service point. 

Consent should be obtained before you travel.

How much sick leave am I entitled to? 

According to  Thompson Practical Law  under section 2 of the Sick Pay Act, (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz (EFZG)), in Austria employees are entitled to a full wage for up to six weeks of sick leave. 

Entitlement to full remuneration increases to:

  • Eight weeks if the employee has been employed for one year without interruption.
  • Ten weeks, if the employee has been employed for 15 years without interruption.
  • 12 weeks if the employee has been employed for 25 years without interruption.
  • After the period of paid sick leave expires, the employee is entitled to a further four weeks on half-pay.

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HEALTH

Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Austrian doctors and virologists have warned of a particularly strong flu wave this winter and recommend that people get vaccinated. Here's how to get the shot in each province.

Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Austrian experts have said there would likely be an exceptionally high wave of the flu after hardly any cases were registered in the past two years. The measures against Covid-19 prevented infections with Sars-CoV-2 – and curbed the spread of influenza and other cold viruses.

This is about to change this season as Covid measures were relaxed and airborne viruses spread again, they said.

In principle, the influenza vaccination protects against symptomatic infection for four months: “About 80 percent for H1 viruses, about 50 to 60 percent for H3 strains and 60 to 70 percent for B viruses,” said Monika Redlberger-Fritz, a virologist from Med-Uni Vienna.

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Austria

She added: “But even with vaccine breakthroughs, you are still very well protected against complications, hospitalisations and death.”

Unlike the Covid-19 vaccination, the flu jab is not organised by the federal government but by the respective provinces, which file a report only after the flu season. In every province, the vaccine is free for children, but many ask adults to pay for a fee or get it from their doctors. In Vienna, the flu vaccination is free for everyone.

Here is how to get the vaccine in each province in campaigns carried out with the participation or knowledge of the government – companies and private insurance institutions can also start their own vaccination campaigns.

Vienna

Vienna offers free flu vaccinations for every resident. You can register online with the impfservice.wien or visit one of the centres that accept people without appointments (for example, the Austria Center Vienna). 

All that is necessary is for you to bring a document with your picture and wear an FFP2 mask. If you have an e-card and a vaccination passport, bring those with you as well. There is also a form to fill out, but those are available on-site.  

Lower Austria

The flu vaccine is free for children from six months to 15-years-old, and they can get the shot from established medical specialists. For those who are older, it is possible to receive the vaccination from a registered specialist, company medical service or from their employer, but they may be charged for it.

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Upper Austria

Children aged six months to 15 can get the vaccine for free with their general practitioners and paediatricians. However, you may need to get the vaccine components at the pharmacy with a voucher and register with your doctor.

Older people can get the vaccination directly at vaccination sites in their district for €15. Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

Styria

In Styria, children from six months to age 15 get the vaccine for free with paediatricians or public health services of their district authorities.  Older adults can get it from the public health service for €16 or €27 if they are older than 65. 

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Carinthia

Children (from six months to 15 years) can get the vaccine for free in doctor’s offices or public health centres. You can check HERE for more information and register. For older people, the price is €22, though prices could be different if you go to your doctor instead of a vaccination centre.

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

Burgenland

Children aged six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free in pharmacies and with their physicians. At-risk patients older than that can also get free vaccines, but only while supplies last. 

Otherwise, buying and paying for the vaccine in a pharmacy or with your general practitioner is possible. There are also free vaccinations in elderly and care homes. 

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Salzburg

Children from six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free with any doctor offering it. You can check with your family doctor or paediatrician. Anyone over 15 that wants to get it needs to buy it at a pharmacy (prices vary depending on the vaccine used) and can ask their family doctor. 

There are free vaccinations for residents of elderly and care homes. 

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Salzburg HERE.

Tyrol

The flu vaccine is free for children from six months to the age of 15 years, and they can get it directly from their doctor (a general practitioner or a paediatrician, for example). For those older, it’s possible to vaccinate with their family doctors, but prices vary for the product and pharmacies and the doctor’s fee. 

Residents of elderly and nursing homes aged 60 and over get the vaccination free of charge.

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Tyrol HERE.

Vorarlberg

In Vorarlberg, children aged six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free with their doctors. Adults can also get it from general practitioner’s offices but will need to pay variable costs (depending on doctor fees and which vaccine they choose).

There are free vaccinations for residents of elderly and care homes. 

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Vorarlberg HERE.

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