Austria’s 3G rule for workplaces: How will it work?

Here's what we know so far about Austria's plans to require proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative Covid-19 test to enter workplaces, after the Health Minister shared further details on Wednesday.

Office workers at computers
The rule change comes into effect from November 1st, with a two-week 'transition period' to begin with. Photo: Israel Andrade/Unsplash

“It cannot be the case that people have to expose themselves to the risk of a Covid-19 infection at work,” said Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein at a press briefing announcing more details on the measures.

What will the law say?

If you work somewhere where physical contact with other people cannot be ruled out (ie in most workplaces where you don’t work entirely alone), you will be required to show a Covid pass or proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19 or a negative test to enter.

This doesn’t only apply to working time, so for example even if you have a private office, the law will still apply if there is a possibility you would come into contact with other people for example in a lunch room, reception area or other common area. But truck drivers are an example of non-affected workers, since they are alone in their vehicles.

What’s 3G and how do I prove it?

The 3G Rule refers to ‘Getestet, Geimpft, Genesen’ (Tested, Vaccinated, Recovered) and describes the three ways someone can provide evidence they have some level of protection from Covid-19. 

Where the rule is in place, people need to show evidence of vaccination, a negative test or having recently recovered from the virus. 

This can be done using Austria’s own Covid health pass app, called the Grüner Pass, or with another valid proof, for example the yellow vaccination booklet you will have received if you were vaccinated in Austria, or an EU digital Covid certificate.

When will the rule apply?

The law is expected to be passed on Friday or Saturday after a Federal Council decision on Thursday. Previously, the centre-left SPÖ had threatened to block it, but came to an agreement with the government on Tuesday after the government met its demand of maintaining free Covid-19 tests beyond October.

The workplace rule will come into effect from November 1st, but the first two weeks will be a ‘transition period’. This means that up until November 14th, people without proof of 3G can still enter workplaces as long as they wear face masks.

Do people still have to wear face masks at work?

After the 3G rule comes into effect, FFP2 masks will not be a requirement in workplaces. In general, Austria does not require masks in places where 3G is in place. The exception is the transition period mentioned above; during the first two weeks of the measure, workers must wear FFP2 masks if they do not have 3G proof.

This also means that staff at supermarkets for example, who have previously been required to wear masks, will no longer have to do this as long as they have 3G proof. Masks will remain mandatory for customers.

In hospitals and nursing homes, staff must wear FFP2 masks as well as showing proof of 3G.

Of course, an employer may introduce their own additional measures if judged necessary to reduce the risk of infection, including requiring masks.

What happens if people break the rule?

Both employers and employees have a responsibility to adhere to the law.

Random checks will take place, and penalties of up to €500 for employees and up to €3600 for employers will apply for those found to be breaking the law.

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EU takes action against Austria on working rights

Austria comes up short in areas such as 'transparent and predictable working conditions' and 'promotion of equality in the labour market', the EU Commission has said.

EU takes action against Austria on working rights

The EU Commission has reprimanded Austria on several labour market issues, according to a press statement by the Brussels-based authority.

Austria is lagging in properly implementing EU regulations in “transparent and predictable working conditions” and “promotion of equality in the labour market”.

After the European Union sends out directives to member states, it also sets a deadline for the countries to bring the EU-agreed rules to the national level.

READ ALSO: 10 ways EU countries aim to cut energy bills and avoid blackouts this winter

The first directive for “transparent and predictable working conditions” provides more extensive and updated labour rights and protection to the 182 million workers in the European Union.

The EU Commission stated: “With the new rules, workers have, for instance, the right to more predictability regarding assignments and working time. They will also have the right to receive timely and more complete information about the essential aspects of their job, such as place of work and remuneration”.

Austria and 18 other member states have failed to communicate the complete transposition of the directive into national law by the deadline of August 1st.

READ ALSO: 10 ways EU countries aim to cut energy bills and avoid blackouts this winter

Promotion of equality in the labour market

Additionally, Austria has failed to notify national measures transposing the “Work-Life Balance Directive” by the EU and has been notified along with 18 other countries.

The directive “aims to ensure equality in labour market participation by encouraging equal sharing of care responsibilities between parents”.

“It introduced paternity leave, ensuring that fathers/second parents have the right to take at least ten working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child. The Directive also establishes a minimum of four months of parental leave, with at least two of the four months non-transferable from one parent to another.

READ ALSO: Non-EU family members of EU citizens can obtain long-term residence, court rules

“It establishes five working days per year of carers’ leave for each worker providing personal care or support to a relative or person living in the same household and gives all working parents of children up to at least eight years old and all carers a right to request flexible working arrangements.”

The Austrian federal government now has two months to respond to the EU Commission’s letter of formal notice, otherwise, it faces another warning – and could eventually see its case going to the European Court of Justice.