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.