Austria has many holidays, especially Christian ones, from the Epiphany on January 6th to St. Stephan’s day on December 26th.
The country also has several non-religious holidays, but with more than 55 per cent of its population identifying as Catholics, the holidays also tend to follow the trend.
With one major exception.
Good Friday, a holiday in most Christian countries (or countries with a large share of a Christian population), is not an official holiday in Austria, even though Easter Monday is.
Why is that?
What is Good Friday?
Good Friday is a Christian holiday observing the day of the crucifixion of Jesus and his death. It is also known as Holy Friday. Several church services and traditions, including fasting, take place on the date.
The date is widely instituted as a legal holiday in Western countries, including Germany and parts of Switzerland.
It was also recognised as a holiday in Austria until 2019, but only for people who were members of the Protestant and Old Catholic Church.
If they had to work, they would be entitled to extra pay for holidays. However, those not members of these religious institutions weren’t entitled to the day off or the additional payment.
Why did the rule change?
In 2019, a Viennese man sued, demanding a holiday salary for his work on Good Friday. The case went all the way to the European Court of Justice, which ruled that having holidays only for a specific part of the population went against the European Union’s equal treatment directive.
Since then, workers in Austria have been allowed to take “personal holidays”, and the Good Friday stopped being a legal holiday in the country.
The “personal holiday” regulation allows workers to, once a year, unilaterally determine when they want to take a day off. The day will be taken from the 30 (or 36, depending on the case) holiday days they are entitled to per year.
The difference to typical vacation days is that the employee can decide when to take it – though they will need to inform the employer in writing and three months in advance.
Also, unlike a regular holiday application, the employer can’t refuse a personal holiday. They can ask the employee not to take it, but it will be the employee’s decision in the end. This goes even for work that is considered essential for operational reasons.
If the worker agrees to work on the day of the personal holiday after the employer requests, they will be entitled to holiday pay. However, the employee is no longer allowed another personal holiday in the current vacation year but won’t lose any vacation days either.
The new regulation allows people to take Good Friday off for religious reasons. Still, it doesn’t go against the equality directives as everyone is entitled to it.
So, no more holidays?
The issue has been debated ever since. In 2020, the Constitutional Court (VfGH) in Austria rejected the application of the Protestant and Old Catholic Churches, among others, to repeal the current regulation on Good Friday.
As celebrations arrive, churches in Austria bring the issue to light every year.
Several representatives of Churches are now asking for Good Friday to be a holiday for all Austrians. “It’s about lifting unequal treatment, so we demand a holiday for everyone”, protestant superintendent Matthias Geist told broadcaster ORF.
Despite political signals that this could be the case, it is already too late for any changes to take place for 2022. So, at least for now, Austrians will have to take a personal day if they want Good Friday off.
Karfreitag – Good Friday
Ostermontag – Easter Montag
Aschermittwoch – Ash Wednesday
Ostern – Easter
Frohe Ostern – Happy Easter