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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Austria?

Despite being a very religious country with plenty of Christian holidays, including Easter Monday, Good Friday is not a day off in Austria. Here's why.

Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Austria?
After two years of cancellations due to the pandemic, Austrians will be able to celebrate easter in the traditional markets (Photo by Bianca Ackermann on Unsplash)

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.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How do Austria’s public holidays stack up against the rest of Europe?

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.

READ ALSO: Easter holidays: What to expect if you are coming to Austria

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.

READ ALSO: Austria wrong to limit Good Friday to certain faiths, EU court rules

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.

Useful vocabulary

Karfreitag – Good Friday
Ostermontag – Easter Montag
Aschermittwoch – Ash Wednesday
Ostern – Easter
Frohe Ostern – Happy Easter

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

Retiring to Austria to spend time in fresh alpine air is a dream for many people, but who is actually eligible to retire to the Alpine Republic? Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

People from all over the world can retire to Austria, but unlike some other European countries, Austria does not have a residence permit tailored to retirees.

This means anyone wanting to retire to Austria has to go through the standard immigration channels, with different rules for EU and non-EU citizens.

Here’s what you need to know about retirement in Austria and who is eligible to retire in the Alpine Republic.

FOR MEMBERS: How can British second home owners spend more than 90 days in Austria?

What are the rules for retiring to Austria as an EU citizen?

The process for citizens from EU and EEA countries to retire in Austria is relatively simple due to freedom of movement across the bloc.

There are a few rules though.

To stay in the Austria for longer than three months, retirees will need to be able to support themselves financially (e.g. through a pension) and have sufficient health insurance.

When it comes to accessing a pension from another EU member state, this is typically taken care of by an insurance provider in Austria who will deal with the approval process between the states. Access to public healthcare in Austria is also available to all EU/EEA citizens.

Currently the pension age in Austria is 60 for women and 65 for men. More information about pensions in Austria can be found on the European Commission website.

FOR MEMBERS: Five reasons to retire in Austria

What are the rules for retiring to Austria as a non-EU citizen?

The most popular visa route for non-EU retirees hoping to live out their golden years in the Austrian Alps or the grandeur of Vienna is to apply for a settlement permit

This is issued to people that do not intend to work in Austria and is referred to as “except gainful employment” (Niederlassungsbewilligung – ausgenommen Erwerbstätigkeit) by Austrian immigration.

To qualify for the settlement permit, applicants must prove they have sufficient funds, comprehensive health insurance and a place to live.

Proof of sufficient funds means applicants must have a regular monthly income from a pension, profits from enterprises abroad, income from assets, savings or company shares. 

The minimum amount is €1,030.49 for a single person, or €1,625.71 for married couples or those in a partnership. 

READ ALSO: Baking away solitude: Vienna cafe hopes to unite world’s grandmas

Third-country nationals also have to provide evidence of basic German language skills at Level A1, in line with the Common European Framework of References for Languages. The diploma must be no older than one year when submitted with the application.

However, the application process will be entirely in German so for people that don’t have advanced German language skills, it’s best to hire an English-speaking immigration lawyer.

Additionally, Austria has a social security agreement with several non-EU states, including the UK, Canada and the USA. This allows some people to access their pension directly from Austria, depending on the agreement.

Again, it can be useful to find an English-speaking advisor to help with the bureaucratic part of accessing a pension in Austria if you don’t have strong German language skills.

After five years of living in Austria with a settlement permit, visa holders can then apply for permanent residence.

Want information on pensions? Then check out the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Useful vocabulary

Retirement – Ruhestand

Pension – Rente

Social insurance – Sozialversicherung

Health insurance – Krankenkasse

Settlement permit – Niederlassungsbewilligung

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