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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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For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

Austria is known as a country with a high standard of living, but it also comes with a high cost of living. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to earn in Austria.

How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

As with most things in Austria, the question of ‘what is a good salary?’ is difficult to answer as the cost of living (and wages) can vary between states and cities.

For example, the east of Austria is typically much cheaper than the west for housing (with the exception of Vienna). And those living in cities often have easier – and cheaper – access to public transport when compared with people living in rural areas. 

READ ALSO: ‘Bad-tempered locals’: Vienna ranked the world’s ‘unfriendliest city’

Childcare is also something to consider with huge differences between Vienna, where there is access to heavily subsidised services, and places like Tyrol where childcare costs more.

To delve a bit deeper, we looked at the data to find out the average salary in Austria and how it differs between professions and locations.

What is the average salary in Austria?

In 2021, the average gross annual salary in Austria was €44,395, according to the latest data from Statistics Austria

However, in the latest survey by online job platform Step Stone, the average gross annual salary in Austria is €49,609.

The Step Stone survey then broke it down further by industry with those working in pharma earning the most at €60,504. This was followed by energy at €60,345, medical technology at €59,106 and banking at €58,711.

The industry with the lowest average annual salary is hotels/gastronomy at €37,546, followed by agriculture at €39,779 and tourism at €43,965.

FOR MEMBERS: REVEALED: The best and worst districts to live in Vienna (as voted for by you)

Occupation also plays a part with people working in management earning the most – on average €66,768. Consulting came second at €53,721.

And like many other European countries, the gender pay gap in Austria prevails. The average annual salary for a man is €52,633 and for a woman it is €44,330.

Furthermore, the top earning city in Austria is Bregenz in Vorarlberg with an average annual salary of €54,620. When comparing the west of Austria with the east, the median salary in Vorarlberg is €46,450, whereas in Burgenland it is just €39,100.

What is the average cost of living in Austria?

Many international residents will find everyday living costs in Austria to be expensive, especially for those that come from countries with a much lower cost of living.

Inflation has also been rising steadily in Austria throughout 2022, leading to some steep rises in prices for groceries, housing costs and energy.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Austria

However, the average cost of living varies across the country, depending on the location. For example, Vienna and Innsbruck in Tyrol are two of Austria’s most expensive cities, but more affordable places to live are Graz in Styria and Klagenfurt in Carinthia.

In Vienna, the average price for a one bedroom apartment in the city centre is €915, going up to €2,000 for a three bedroom apartment, according to Expat Arrivals.

Whereas in Graz, the average cost of a one bedroom city centre apartment is around €609, and a three bedroom apartment is €1,170.

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