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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.