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HEALTH INSURANCE

Everything you need to know about health insurance for freelancers in Austria

Social insurance, the term used to describe health insurance and other aspects such as pensions, is compulsory in Austria - even for self-employed people. Here’s everything you need to know.

Everything you need to know about health insurance for freelancers in Austria
Freelancing in Austria? Here's what you need to know about health insurance. Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Everyone in Austria has to have health and social insurance, but for self-employed people it can be overwhelming to navigate the system.

This is because social insurance is usually taken care of by an employer and the amount is simply deducted from a salary every month. 

However, setting up social insurance as a freelancer or self-employed person can be simplified – once you know the basics.

How does social insurance work in Austria? 

For employed people in Austria, social insurance payments are made to the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK) every month via their employer. 

The ÖGK is the largest social health insurance company in Austria, with 82 percent of people in the country insured through the organisation.

Freelancers and self-employed people have to organise insurance themselves though, which can be done through the organisation of social insurance for self-employed people (Sozialversicherung der Selbständigen) or SVS

FOR MEMBERS: How to survive as a freelancer in Austria

For freelancers from overseas, navigating insurance in another language can be a daunting part of the process. 

James Tibbles, a former freelance web designer from the UK who lives in Tyrol, advises any self-employed people in Austria to seek help from an advisor when starting out.

James told The Local: “My tax advisor explained it all to me and picked out the correct one for my circumstances, so whenever I received a letter from them I just immediately passed it on to her.”

Another tip is to find an advisor that speaks a high level of English, which can be relatively easy in more metropolitan areas or regions with a strong tourism industry. 

Registering as self-employed also involves signing up with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) who can then help you with setting up insurance with the SVS.

The key thing to remember is that health and social insurance is compulsory in Austria. So make sure it is a top priority. 

What do SVS payments cover?

SVS payments cover several aspects of health and social care. 

According to the Austrian government, social insurance payments cover: “prevention, sickness, incapacity for work/invalidity, maternity, unemployment, old age, death of a person liable to provide maintenance, survivors’ pensions, nursing care and social need.”

It basically grants people the same social insurance coverage as those on payroll.

For example, €100 of SVS payment can be broken down as €65 towards pension, €26 for health insurance, €5 towards self-employment provisions, €2 for accident insurance and €2 in administration costs.

As you can see, the largest percentage of SVS goes towards a pension, which means even though payments are considered to be high by many self-employed people, a large portion of the money is being invested.

READ MORE: How does the Austrian pension system work?

In fact, Austria’s pension system is one of the best in Europe, offering 80.9 percent of the average salary, which is only beaten by Luxembourg and Italy.

To compare, the state pension in the UK is just 28.4 percent of the average salary with experts warning that the payments don’t even cover a minimum standard of living.

As an added bonus, social insurance contributions in Austria can even be deducted from your tax bill at the end of the year (but only what you have paid so far).

Typical SVS payments

If you are self-employed in Austria, it is compulsory to pay for health and social insurance once your income exceeds €5,710.32 annually. But if you don’t reach that limit then you are exempt from paying social insurance.

The minimum contribution for those earning up to around €8,000 a year is around €160 a month. Once your salary exceeds that amount, you will be charged more. 

For the first three years, payments are calculated on a minimum contribution basis. But from the fourth year of self-employment, social insurance contributions are calculated in relation to the income in the preceding third year of business.

READ ALSO: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Austria?

However, it’s important to be aware that when first registering as self-employed in Austria there is often a delay to the start of social insurance payments.

This can mean receiving a bill several months later and having to pay six months worth of social insurance in one go. Afterwards though, you should receive SVS bills on a quarterly basis.

Useful links

SEA – The self-employed in Austria group supports self-employed individuals by delivering information in the form of guidebooks and free articles in English. 

SVS – The social insurance organisation for self-employed people in Austria.

WKO – The Austrian Chamber of Commerce is a useful source of information for self-employed people.

Useful vocabulary

Sozialversicherung – social insurance

Selbständigen – self-employed

Neue Selbständige – new self-employed

Steuer – tax

Gesundheitsversicherung – health insurance

Pensionsvorsorge  – pension provision

Unfallversicherung – accident insurance

Verwaltungskosten – administration costs

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WORKING IN AUSTRIA

When are the next public holidays in Austria?

Planning vacations around public holidays is an easy way to maximise time off work in Austria. To help you get started, here are the next dates for your diary.

When are the next public holidays in Austria?

We might be heading towards the final season of the year, but there are still several national public holidays to enjoy in Austria before 2022 is over.

Here’s what you need to know.

Austrian National Day

The next big public holiday in Austria is the country’s National Day on Wednesday October 26th. 

It was on this day in 1955 that Austria signed its so-called Declaration of Perpetual Neutrality, although the date has only been a public holiday since 1965.

FOR MEMBERS: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays – and what to do instead

The Declaration marked the end of the Allied occupation in Austria by British, American, French and Soviet Union forces, who had controlled the country since the end of World War II in 1945.

On Austrian National Day, the Federal President usually addresses the nation on TV, as well as honouring the victims of the war resistance and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is also the day when new recruits of the Austrian Armed Forces are sworn in. 

Additionally, military celebrations typically take place at Vienna’s Heldenplatz and many museums offer free or discounted entry on the holiday.

All Saints’ Day

This religious holiday falls on Tuesday November 1st. It is a celebration of all saints of the Catholic Church and is also recognised in many other countries across Europe.

On the eve of All Saints’ Day (also known as Halloween), it is customary for lanterns to be left at Austrian graveyards. Church bells then ring at noon on the actual holiday. This signifies a release of the souls of the dead, according to the beliefs surrounding this day.

Many Austrians visit cemeteries on this public holiday and decorate the graves of loved ones with autumn flowers, like marigolds and chrysanthemums.

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

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

On Thursday December 8th, the country shuts down once again for another religious holiday, known as Mariä Empfängnis (Mary’s Conception).

This roots of this public holiday is a celebration of the life of the Virgin Mary as Catholics believe Mary was immaculately conceived on this day. Mary’s mother, Anne, is known as the patron saint of pregnant women.

During the Nazi era, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was no longer allowed to be a public holiday in Austria. But it was brought back in the 1955 following a public referendum on the issue.

One extra bonus for Austrian residents on Mariä Empfängnis is that shops are allowed to open as the holiday falls during the busiest shopping period of the year. On all other public holidays in Austria, shops are closed.

People stand outside of the traditional annual Christmas Market in front of Vienna’s city hall in Vienna, Austria on November 15, 2021. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Christmas Day

This year, Christmas Day (December 25th) falls on a Sunday.

Today, Christmas is a celebration of food, culture and gift giving, but the holiday has its roots firmly in Christianity as it marks the birth of Jesus.

In Austria, Christmas is mostly celebrated on the evening of December 24th – known as Christmas Eve elsewhere – and usually involves a meal with family followed by gifts. 

But as Christmas is on a Sunday in 2022, it means the holiday is technically lost. When public holidays fall on a weekend in Austria they are not replaced with another day off, like in some other countries.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What happens in Austria when a holiday falls on a weekend?

St. Stephen’s Day

St. Stephen’s Day in Austria is on December 26th, a holiday that is known as Boxing Day in places like the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In the US, December 26th is more commonly known as a shopping holiday.

In Christianity, St. Stephen is regarded as one of the first martyrs and it is believed he dedicated his life to helping the poor and needy. In Austria, the day is commemorated by visiting a Christmas market, going to church or attending a special festival.

As with most other public holidays in Austria, shops are closed on St. Stephen’s Day.

READ NEXT: ‘Mission 11’: Austrian government reveals tips on how to save energy and fuel

Making the most of public holidays in Austria

Austria has a generous public holiday allowance with 13 days every year.

So if employees plan to take vacations during the public holidays, they can really maximise their time off. 

For example, if a public holiday falls on a Wednesday, then it’s possible to take almost a week off work by only using vacation days for Thursday and Friday. But be sure to get any requests in quick as some people plan their vacation days for the entire year in January.

If you are a freelancer, then it’s always a good idea to be aware of public holidays in Austria – especially when working with clients in other countries that have different public holidays.

This way you can make sure you’re not the only one in your household working on a holiday. Or you can at least stock up on groceries before everything shuts down for a day. 

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