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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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JOBS

EXPLAINED: How to find a summer job in Austria?

Though Austria is mainly known for its winter resorts, there is no shortage of possibilities for those looking for seasonal jobs in summer.

EXPLAINED: How to find a summer job in Austria?

Summer is coming up, and those few hot months are a perfect opportunity for many people to get a seasonal job and earn some extra cash.

Austria’s economy is heavily based on tourism. But even though the winter resorts and sports are what the alpine country is most well-known for, the summer months are also hectic in the tourism and gastronomy sectors.

The demand for seasonal workers usually is high but has increased even more in the last few years. According to the Austrian employment agency AMS, there are more than 15,000 open positions in gastronomy and tourism still lacking workers.

The pandemic widened the gap, as the sector was hardly hit by lockdowns and changes in consumer behaviour. With coronavirus restrictions, the field lost some of its attraction. It is still having trouble finding new labour, AMS boss Johannes Kopf told broadcaster ORF.

A summer without coronavirus restrictions

However, for the first time since the pandemic started, Austria will see a summer with almost no coronavirus restrictions.

The country has recently dropped its 3G rule for entry for travellers, meaning that tourists (and residents) no longer have to show proof that they were vaccinated against Covid-19, recently recovered from the disease or tested negative.

The expectation is high that this will boost tourism, especially as the 3G rules and the mask mandate also fell in most indoor areas.

READ MORE: LATEST: What are Austria’s current Covid-19 rules?

Last year, even with some restrictions still in place, the sector saw a recovery compared to 2020 but was still not at pre-pandemic levels, according to Statistik Austria.

Still, the May to October season had more than 66 million overnight stays, with almost half of them (42.7 per cent) coming from Germany.

From imperial cities to lakes and mountains, Austria has no shortage of offers during summer. As travelling resumes, the sector is desperately looking for workers.

vienna, pratter

Vienna is big touristic destination also during summer months (Photo by Anton on Unsplash)

Where can I find summer jobs in Austria?

The capital is undoubtedly where most visitors come, according to Statistik Austria. However, it is also where many establishments have a year-round crew, and seasonal work might not be as easy to find.

It is far from impossible, though, and it is worth the search if you have your eyes set on Vienna.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

However, other major Austrian cities also have openings, most notably the touristic towns of and around Innsbruck and Salzburg. Of course, the mountainous region of Austria might be most famous for its ski slopes. Still, they also offer breathtaking summer views, cool and beautiful alpine lakes, and numerous hiking trails.

Plus excellent hotels for people to stay in and great Austrian restaurants – all looking for employees.

What types of jobs are available?

There are many job openings to skim through, but most will be the most traditional service work in tourism and gastronomy: waitressing, housekeeping, cooking, and reception.

If you look outside of Vienna, several professions in the tourism and gastronomy sector are included in Austria’s list of shortage occupations.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

Those include some surprising ones like department store sales clerks, waiters and waitresses, masseuses, and others. If you don’t have a right to work in Austria (non-EU citizens without a work permit, for example), being skilled in a shortage occupation makes it easier to be hired and get a residence permit.

Most of these jobs will require a certain level of German, especially since Germans are an overwhelming part of tourists entering Austria. However, the high demand for workers might help those who do not speak the language yet, especially for positions that don’t require much customer interaction.

READ ALSO: Austria: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

Another popular job for summer is instructor, or caretaker, in summer camps. As many of them are bilingual or in English, German is not usually a mandatory language – there are also positions for English teachers, especially in camps and schools with summer courses.

Where can I find these jobs?

As with most industries and professions, searching online is usually the first step in finding a summer job in Austria.

Outside of known employment platforms such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn, Austria’s Karriere.at might be a good place to look.

READ ALSO: Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

Hogastjob is also a local platform with plenty of seasonal offers in Austria, Germany and Italy (South Tyrol region).

Another approach is to contact resorts or hotels directly to find out when they are hiring for the summer season and the types of roles that will be available – they should also have a job vacancies page on official websites that you can check.

Or get in touch with friends that have previously worked in the summer season in Austria and ask for a recommendation.

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