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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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COST OF LIVING

Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

Austria's June inflation is expected to be 8.7 percent, according to calculations by Statistics Austria - a record high in the country.

Cost of living: Why are restaurants getting more expensive in Austria?

The inflation rate for June 2022 is expected to be 8.7 percent, the Statistics Austria institute calculated as part of a flash estimate.

Compared with the previous month, consumer prices rose by 1.4 percent, Statistics Austria said. This is the highest level since 1975 or almost 50 years.

The wave of inflation has affected mostly energy and food prices in Austria but has now also arrived in the gastronomy sector, with increasing costs in bars and restaurants in the country.

“Inflation has picked up speed in almost all areas. In addition to recent increases in fuel and heating oil prices, we also see significant increases in restaurant and food prices”, according to Statistics Austria Director-General Tobias Thomas.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s new finance measures could benefit you

The main culprits of rising food prices in retail and restaurants are the more costly energy and fuel prices. As transport and production become more expensive, these increases cascade to gastronomy as well.

Additionally, packaging and logistics costs have also increased, directly affecting food prices, the Handelsverband (trade association) said.

“The war in Ukraine and China’s zero-covid strategy continue to put a massive strain on global supply chains,” said Rainer Will, Managing Director of the Trade Association, in a press release.

“We do not expect inflation to peak until the end of the year.”

READ ALSO: The essential products that are getting more expensive in Austria

The association added that the Ukraine war also increased prices for agricultural raw materials and fertilisers, making food production and distribution more expensive.

What is next?

Rising costs have already reached other sectors, including rental prices, as The Local reported.

Austrian Post has also said that there will be price adjustments in the parcel sector “in the foreseeable future”, though they have added that these will be “very moderate”.

Criticism from the opposition

The SPÖ, FPÖ and the Neos accuse the government of doing too little against inflation.

“There is not even a draft law for the abolition of the cold progression,” criticised Neos economic and social spokesman Gerald Loacker. “The government’s one-off payments help little to nothing,” said SPÖ social spokesperson Josef Muchitsch.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The main Austrian ‘tax traps’ foreigners should be aware of

FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl spoke of “failure to help”. “The ’emergency measures’ decided in the special session the week before do not even deserve the name – the first money will not flow until August 2022 at the earliest.”, he said.

The federal government has announced a broad package to help ease rising cost of living with one-off payments and the end of the so-called “cold progression” when tax brackets do not take into account inflation changes.

READ ALSO: When will you get your cost of living ‘bonus’ payments in Austria?

Cost of living calculation

The quick estimates of Statistik Austria are based on the existing database at the time of publication, which includes about 80 to 90 percent of the prices necessary for the inflation calculation.

There may, therefore, still be deviations. For example, the quick estimate of inflation for May was initially 8.0 percent, but the value was later revised downwards to 7.7 percent.

The index level of the consumer price index and further results for June 2022 will be announced on July 19th 2022.

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