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FAMILIES

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about parental leave in Austria

Mutterschutz, Papamonat, Karenz, and Familienbeihilfe: here's your guide to the main concepts and schemes for parental leave in Austria

Parental leave is generous in Austria, but it can be complex. Photo by Alberto Casetta on Unsplash
Parental leave is generous in Austria, but it can be complex. Photo by Alberto Casetta on Unsplash

When it comes to parental leave, Austria has one of the most extensive systems in the European Union and the world.

This is mainly because, when you consider all the combined benefits, parents can have paid leave for years – even if not on their full salary or working part-time. The system is also very flexible, with different options that parents can choose.  

There are a few essential words and schemes that people looking to take parental leave in Austria should know. The Local talked with Severina Ditzov, legal advisor and co-founder of Austria for Beginners, to understand how parental leave and family benefits work in Austria. 

Mutterschutz

In Austria, there is a period of Mutterschutz, or “maternity protection”, that starts eight weeks before the baby’s due date and continues for eight to 12 weeks after birth. The mothers are not supposed to work during this time, and companies need to follow this period strictly. 

READ MORE: The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

During Mutterschutz, mothers receive an allowance known as Wochengeld, which consists of 80 percent of their previous salary. The process for the leave and the benefit is made by the company directly with the government, and the idea is to protect the pregnant woman.

When the child is born, fathers can take up to one month of unpaid leave, known as Papamonat (Daddy month). “This can be taken within the first three months of the birth of the child”, Ditzov explains. 

The “daddy month” is considered unpaid leave, but fathers can ask for a up to € 700 payment (equivalent of €22 a day) compensation from the state. Certain companies will offer new dads a couple of days off paid after the birth but this depends on the company and sector agreements in place.

Karenz

After the end of Mutterschutz, parents can ask to go on a Karenz, or parental leave period – the release from work in return for a suspension of wages. 

Austria has a quite flexible scheme, and parents can switch twice between who takes the benefit. They can stay on Karenz for a total of two years, though the minimum period for parental leave is two months. There’s also a protection against employment termination that ends four weeks after the end of the parental leave.

During parental leave, the families receive government payments, known as Kinderbetreuungsgeld, depending on the scheme they choose.

READ MORE: Six helpful tips to save money on food shopping in Austria

It is possible to obtain a lump payment every month or a percentage of average salaries, and the actual amount will be calculated based on how long the parental leave will last. Parents who take longer leaves will receive a lower monthly allowance. 

“The payment and the time on leave don’t need to match, so parents can choose to stay for two years on leave but only receive the payment for six months, for example,” says Ditzov.

Of course, that would mean the payments would be higher, even if for fewer months.

Persons who have not had gainful employment subject to compulsory insurance in Austria in the 182 calendar days preceding the child’s birth, which includes homemakers, and people who recently moved to Austria, will be entitled to the flat-rate childcare allowance.

“Even if you never worked in Austria before, as long as you follow certain requirements, mainly proving that your centre of living is in Austria, you are entitled to the flat-rate payment”, Ditzov says. 

Parents need to apply for childcare allowance, and the mother will need to show the Mutter Kind Pass, a document proving she has correctly carried out the mandatory examinations. 

Elternteilzeit

The parents who have worked with the same company for at least three years are entitled to request Elternteilzeit or “parents part-time”.

In that case, they can negotiate with employers to find a part-time working solution, usually working fewer hours every day or working fewer days a week.

However, not all companies can provide the scheme, as they need a minimum number of employers, and there are also requirements for employers.

Family benefits

Austria offers several benefits packages to families – some not conditioned to having worked in the country at all. 

For example, the Familienbeihilfe is paid monthly to every child resident in Austria until they turn 24 – with some exceptions. The amount depends on the child’s age but can reach € 165.10 a month for one child.

The only requirements are that the parents’ centre of life is in Austria and they live with the child. From 18 years of age, there are also requirements and conditions regarding education and schooling.

“Even if the child just moved into Austria, and even if they are not babies, they are entitled to that money as long as parents live here legally and are insured”, the advisor added. 

In addition, families get tax benefits for having children or in case of single parents, for example. Families with children between the ages of six and 15 also get the yearly Schulstartgeld every September, an automatic €100 payment before the beginning of the school year. 

Among the bonus possibilities is a € 1.000 partnership bonus that parents can request if they have received childcare allowance in approximately equal proportions (50:50 to 60:40) and for at least 124 days each. 

Austria has several online calculators to help families check their benefits depending on income or duration of parental leave.

Most of the benefits are either automatic or can be requested online with the insurance provider or FinanzOnline, and it’s worth checking the resources and making a plan based on what works best for your family.

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MONEY

EXPLAINED: How to claim your €150 energy discount in Austria

Austria is sending out "energy vouchers" to some four million households, in an effort to cushion rising living costs in the country.

EXPLAINED: How to claim your €150 energy discount in Austria

By the end of May, around four million households in Austria will receive a voucher worth € 150 to discount their energy bills. 

The one-off payment is part of a larger package by the federal government to assist residents as the country faces soaring energy prices and increasing inflation, as reported. 

Around one million vouchers will be sent each week, and each primary residence should receive a voucher by post by the end of May.

The bonus is directly connected to the electricity supplier. It can be redeemed by single-person households with an annual income of up to € 55,000 or residences with more people and up to € 110,000 yearly income.

voucher for energy costs in austria

The website to redeem the energy voucher can also be found in English.

How do I redeem the voucher?

The € 150 discount voucher will be mailed to households and can be redeemed online. People entitled to the discount can scan the QR code on the voucher or go to the official government page, which also has an English version.

READ ALSO: Is Austria set for a gas price hike – and what can you do to avoid it?

You are then prompted to enter the data of the energy customer and asked to keep the voucher number and check number so you can check the status of the application.  

According to the official page, consumers should receive a credit worth €150 with their energy provider’s annual or final invoice. 

The voucher can also be redeemed by post. You need to confirm your main residence, that you do not go over the income limit (for a single-person household, the limit corresponds to a monthly gross salary of about €5,670 for employees, double that for multi-person homes).

You should also specify your electricity supplier, note down your voucher number and your check digit and complete the fields in the voucher. Finally, you can then send the return envelope back by post.

The voucher must be redeemed, either electronically or by mail, at least until October 31st. 

Who can redeem the voucher?

Every registered person registered in the central office (Zentralen Medleregister) with a primary residence in Austria will receive a voucher by mail, but not everyone can redeem it.

According to the federal government, people must have had their main residence at the registered address for at least one day from March 15th 2022, to June 30th of the same year. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are fuel prices increasing faster in Austria than elsewhere in the EU?

Additionally, the person who redeems needs to be the paying customer of an energy supplier, so if you have moved abroad and no longer have a contract, you can no longer use the voucher and not go over the income limits. 

People can only redeem one voucher, so if you moved your main residence within this period and received two vouchers, only one can be used. 

What if I haven’t received my voucher?

The government intends to send the vouchers by post until the end of May. Still, it alerts that if you haven’t received one by July 2022, you can use the website to check what happened or call 050 233 798 and request a voucher until August 31st. 

READ ALSO: Will inflation force tax changes in Austria from 2023?

What if the € 150 is higher than the amount due in the electricity bill?

In that case, according to the federal government, the excess amount will be credited by the electricity supplier for later invoices. 

Useful vocabulary

Voucher – Gutschein

Electricity supplier – Stromlieferant

Main place of residence – Hauptwohnsitz

Income Limitation – Einkunftsgrenze

Payslip – Lohnzettel

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