Reader question: What happens in Austria when a holiday falls on a weekend?

Labour Day is coming up, and for many, the holiday is an opportunity to get some much-deserved rest. This year, though, it falls on Sunday. What does that mean?

A woman takes a selfie in front of tulips blossoming at Karlsplatz in Vienna
Spring blooms are everywhere in Vienna now - a perfect time for a holiday break. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Celebrated on May 1st, Labour Day has been a public holiday throughout Austria for more than 100 years. 

It is known in the country as a “general day of rest and celebration”, and much of the events that take place on May 1st are dominated by the social democrats, who take the streets of Vienna in large marches, speeches and demonstrations. 

Even those who do not participate in the celebrations marking the struggles – and victories – of workers worldwide do enjoy the fact that, as a bank holiday (one of the few non-religious ones in Austria), they get to stay at home and not work for a day.

But this year, the holiday falls on a Sunday, meaning Austrians will miss out on one of their 13 public holidays of the year.

READ ALSO: Five spring destinations from Austria – and the Covid rules in place

It wouldn’t be the first time this year, as New Year’s day was also on a Sunday, and Christmas will be too. 

The ‘lost’ holidays

For many immigrants, the fact that Austria doesn’t have a “compensation day” if a holiday falls on the weekend can be surprising.

In total, 85 countries, including Belgium, England, Spain, and Thailand, will give a day off to workers if the holiday happens to be on the weekend. In addition, Austrian neighbours such as Switzerland and Germany have been discussing adopting such measures to avoid stress and give “urgently needed rest” to workers. 

There hasn’t been much talk in Austria about that, possibly because the country has other struggles to fight when it comes to holidays (including the fact that Good Friday is not a bank holiday) and plenty of controversy concerning rest days

READ ALSO: Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Austria?

So what happens when a holiday falls on a weekend in Austria?

First of all, it depends on whether it is a Saturday or a Sunday.

Saturday is technically not a rest day, so people who usually work on Saturdays will have the day off (or get double pay for working on a holiday), and most shops and supermarkets will close.

This is when people will see a significant difference in daily life and in their work life.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

However, when a holiday falls on a Sunday, very little changes. This is because Sundays and public holidays are regulated by the same laws. In both cases, stores and shops will be closed, and people who need to work will receive double pay on their basic hourly wage. 

So if a holiday falls on a Sunday, most shops will still be closed as they usually would have been, and those who need to work will receive a 100 per cent surcharge on their hourly wages. 

These are the general rules, but in Austria, much of the labour laws are governed by collective agreements of specific professions. Additionally, the federal regulations determine that exceptions to the weekend and holiday rest can be made for some essential workers, and exceptions can be granted after a specific ordinance by authorities.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

For non-essential workers who usually run a Monday to Friday work week, not much changes then, and yes, the holiday on a Sunday would be “lost”. 

However, for these people, holidays on a Saturday are not only lost as rest days, but as possible shopping and grocery days as well – leading to some very long Friday evening supermarket lines.

High quality of life

With the rest day on a Sunday enshrined in Austria’s cultural traditions, workers can be sure that they will have a day to recharge at least one day a week.

But more than that, Austria also has one of the highest numbers of national public holidays, at 13 (with some states having up to 15). 

Workers are also entitled to one “private holiday” a year, which works similarly to a public holiday, but can be taken any day. 

Austria tops the list among the nine countries covered by The Local. At the same time, Germany only has nine national holidays, and some Swiss communes can have as few as five in total.

READ MORE: What are The Local Austria’s ‘reader questions’?

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Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.