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WORKING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: When can I get a day off work in Austria?

It’s important to know your employment rights when working in another country. Here’s what you need to know about taking a day off work in Austria.

People make their way in peddal boats on the Old Danube (Alte Donnau), a subsidiary of the Danube river, in Vienna, Austria.
Going on holiday is a common reason for taking time off work in Austria, but when else can you take a day off? (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austria is known for having a good work/life balance and for prioritising time off for rest. 

So it comes as no surprise that holiday entitlement is quite generous in the Alpine Republic and that workers enjoy a high number of public holidays every year.

But there are some rules to be aware of when it comes to taking time off work, as well as some special circumstances that international residents might not know.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about camping in Austria

Taking a holiday (Urlaub)

Holiday entitlement for workers in Austria is enshrined in employment law which states full time workers (those working five days a week) can take a minimum of 25 days holiday every year – the equivalent of five working weeks.

The amount of leave a person can take for holidays then varies depending on how much they work.

Four days a week = 20 days of holiday per year.

Three days a week = 15 days holiday.

Two days a week = 10 days holiday.

One day a week = five days holiday.

READ ALSO: Nine things you need to know when relocating to Vienna

After 25 years of full time work with the same employer, workers then gain an extra five days of holiday every year, increasing the annual leave to six working weeks.

In most cases, employer consent is needed to take holidays, so always speak to a boss before booking a holiday. 

But keep in mind that full annual holiday entitlement only kicks in after six months with an employer. Until then, employees gain two holiday days for every month worked.

Public holidays in Austria

Austria is considered as one of the leading countries when it comes to national public holidays with 13 every year, or up to 15 in some states.

But what happens if a public holiday falls on a weekend?

Saturday is technically not a rest day (unlike Sunday), 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.

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

However, when a holiday falls on a Sunday, very little changes 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. 

Unfortunately, for non-essential workers (those who usually work Monday to Friday), if a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday it is technically “lost”, and not replaced on another day.

For many international residents in Austria this can be surprising with countries including Belgium, England, Spain, and Thailand all compensating workers with a day off during the week if a public holiday falls on a weekend.

So far, there has been no discussion about changing the rules in Austria, so weekend public holidays are destined to be “lost” for the foreseeable future.

Sick leave

In some countries it’s possible to call in sick for a few days without having a doctor’s note and still get paid.

Unfortunately, Austria is not one of those countries and employees need to present a written letter from a doctor to take time off sick or receive sick pay (Krankenstand). 

READ NEXT: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

However, there are some benefits to this – mostly if someone falls ill while on holiday.

In this case, holiday pay can be transferred to sick leave if a worker is unwell for more than three days while on vacation and has a doctor’s note to prove it.

This has been especially useful for some people during the Covid-19 pandemic who caught the virus while on holiday.

Family and childcare

Workers can take paid leave for up to one week (five days) to care for a sick relative if they live in the same household, also known as Pflegefreistellung.

Parents can also take paid childcare leave if their kids are sick. Generally, one week of childcare leave is permitted each year.

In both cases, paid leave can be extended up to two weeks in certain circumstances.

Special circumstances

In Austria, employees are entitled to Sonderurlaub, otherwise known as special leave.

This allows people to request between one and three days of paid leave for a specific event, such as a wedding, moving house or attending a funeral.

This type of leave is in addition to a person’s standard holiday entitlement and so won’t eat into a vacation allowance.

Useful links

Living and working in Austria

Work in Austria

Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO)

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JOBS

Will a 4-day week and free German lessons help Vienna’s transport network find staff?

Vienna's state-owned public transport company, Wiener Linien, is thinking outside the box to fill staff shortages, including lowering the German language requirements and offering a 4-day work week.

Will a 4-day week and free German lessons help Vienna’s transport network find staff?

Austria’s Wiener Linien, the city-owned company that runs the public transport in the capital Vienna, needs to hire hundreds of workers this year, Austrian media has reported.

In 2022, the company responsible for the buses, trams, and metros in Vienna will see around 600 employees from the so-called “baby boomer generation” retiring.

And even though the company has seen a certain degree of digitisation of its service, it still relies heavily on the “human factor”, managing director Alexandra Reinagl told ORF.

As it expands and serves more people each year, Wiener Linien is struggling to hire around 900 employees already in 2022.

Why is it so hard to find workers?

The phenomenon of a labour shortage is not specific to Wiener Linien – or even to Austria only. As population ages and birth rates go down, many European countries struggle to renovate their workforce.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

The Austrian population of just about 8.8 million people is only still growing because of immigration, as Statistik Austria’s director general Tobias Thomas explained.

He said: “Without it, according to the population forecast, the number of inhabitants would fall back to the level of the 1950s in the long term”.

Additionally, unemployment in Austria is at record lows at the same time as there are increasing numbers of open positions. In many sectors (but particularly in the industrial and commercial), companies have difficulty finding workers.

READ ALSO: Jobs in Austria: What types of jobs are in demand and where?

So, companies are finding it difficult to hire qualified workers all over Europe. In Austria, a country with a large group of immigrants and a relatively tricky official language, one issue comes up more and more: German requirements.

This is one of the barriers that Wiener Linien wants to tackle.

Wiener Linien is also looking for part-time metro drivers. (Copyright: @Johannes Zinner / Wiener Linien)

What is the Wiener Linien doing to end staff shortages?

The state-owned company is perhaps the first of its kind to start looking into significantly lowering German-language requirements for its workers.

“We are thinking about how we can make our working conditions even more attractive so that we also appeal to people who are unsure of their German language skills”, Alexandra Reinagl said.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permit

The company wants first to hire and then invest in German tutoring to get workers to the necessary level in the language. The premise is clear: it is now easier to learn German than to find employees. 

She added: “Often the technical understanding and the will are there, but the language skills are not”.

Four-day work week

The public company also wants to attract workers by offering them more flexible working hours. To prepare for that, Wiener Linien is starting a pilot test for a four-day work week from autumn onwards.

The pilot project would involve 300 employees, and, to avoid salary cuts, the only changes would be in the distribution of the 37.5 hours of work per week. So, workers would stay for longer shifts for four days and, on the other hand, have three days off from work every week.

READ ALSO: Explained: How to understand your payslip in Austria

The project is similar to other attempts, including by Belgium, to allow people to work longer for fewer days. The concept has also been debated in Switzerland, France, and Germany, among other countries worldwide, as The Local reported.

The company runs the bus, tram, and metro lines in Vienna (Copyright: @Johannes Zinner / Wiener Linien)

The Wiener Linien proposal is facing some criticism, though. Some experts have called it “cheating” as while it may reduce the workload to four days, it technically doesn’t lower the weekly amount of hours people have to work in a week. 

They argue that longer days lead to more exhaustion, raising the risk of accidents and could be a problem for single parents who also have to deal with childcare.

Other perks by Wiener Linien

The transport company has an comprehensive recruiting website, with Wilma “the recruiting bot” to assist people with job searches within the company.

There are currently 127 jobs in the Jobs portal, where the transport firm advertises its advantages, including offering safe, “future-proof” and climate-friendly jobs and having “award-winning company health management” that offers preventive vaccinations, nutritional advice, and fitness courses.

READ ALSO: Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in Austria

Winier Linien also says it provides a work-life balance with a full-time week adding to 37.5 hours and the possibility of part-time employment.

“We support our employees from the very beginning in their personal and professional development”, the company claims, adding that employees can also ride in Viennese public transport for free.

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