How Austrian employers use private detectives to check if workers are sick

How far can your employer go to monitor your sick leave? In Austria, they are hiring private detectives to check on workers.

private detective investigator austria working in austria jobs in austria
Employers are keeping private investigators busy with requests to monitor sick leave in Austria (Photo by cottonbro/Pexels)

In Austria, a person is entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company), and employees need to inform their employer of their incapacity for work immediately.

An employer can require a medical certificate from the first day of incapacity to work, but this is usually only required on the fourth day of illness – though to be on the safe side, you should consult with your family doctor as soon as possible in order to get the official doctor’s note.

The situation in Austria, then, becomes very particular: many employers trust their workers to stay home when sick without a note for a couple of days.

Additionally, if a doctor’s note is required, it is up to the doctor to determine which day the leave starts.

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

That means that if you get sick on a day and end up going to your doctor only the next day asking for a sick note, you might get it.

Since the relationship between family doctors and their patients tends to be a close one in Austria (different from other countries where there are no family doctors per se), this is a widespread practice.

On the other side of all this trust, Austrian labour law allows for the so-called “sick leave monitoring”, which has led to some unique situations.

Private detectives monitoring workers on sick leave

According to ORF, employers can monitor sick leave if there is a “legitimate interest on the part of the employer”, and is stipulated in the Trade Regulation Act.

Employers can then monitor the sick leave not exactly to check if the worker is lying about a sickness (they can ask for a doctor’s note to confirm the illness) but to evaluate whether or not the person on sick leave is doing anything that could “hinder” their recovery process.

Apparently, companies are massively resorting to private detectives to do such work, and the broadcaster said that the monitoring of sick leave already accounts for up to 40 percent of requests to these professionals.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s new rules around sick leave for employees?

Wien Heute tagged along to check the work of one of these private detectives while on assignment. With binoculars, a bona fide stakeout van, and recording equipment, they follow an employee who was supposed to stay home by doctor’s orders.

The worker is filmed going to an ice cream parlour and to a public pool in Vienna. The detectives (they work in pairs, one staying in the van and another on foot) record all of their movements. 

A final report with all the evidence is handed over to the employer. In this case, the woman could not only lose her job but also ultimately have to pay the costs for the detectives herself.

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What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

There comes a time in many people’s working life when overtime is required (or even welcomed). But what are the rules in Austria?

What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Working overtime (Überstunden) usually means earning extra money – but it also requires more work and less time for your private life.

Plus, whereas some people might jump at the chance to boost their income, others might not have the capacity to take on more work due to family commitments, or even poor health.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

So what happens if your employer asks you to work overtime in Austria?

Here’s what you need to know.

What are regular working hours in Austria?

Regular working hours are set by the Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz), which applies to most private-sector employees in Austria over the age of 18.

The law states that regular working hours are eight hours within a 24-hour period, or a 40-hour week.

However, this is not set in stone as working hours can be adjusted by collective agreements or negotiations with an employer. 

This means a working week can be reduced to 38 hours, for example, or a working day increased to 10 hours to allow for a four-day work week or flexible working.

Likewise, shift work has different rules and staff can work up to 12 hours during one shift without stepping into overtime territory.

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

What is considered as overtime?

If someone has a job with regular working hours of eight hours a day or 40 hours a week, then overtime starts when they go over those hours. But only if there are no previously agreed exceptions in place.

Furthermore, employees can only be expected to work overtime if it does not create a conflict with their other responsibilities, such as child care or health care.

For anyone that does work overtime, they should be paid at a rate of 1.5 times their usual pay.

For part time (Teilzeit) staff with a set number of contracted hours (e.g. 25 hours), the pay for overtime is 1.25 the usual rate. This is known as “extra work” (Mehrarbeit).

READ MORE: How Austrian employers use private detectives to check if workers are sick

What are the rules for working overtime in Austria?

According to the employment law in Austria, staff can work up to 20 hours per week in overtime. This means up to 12 hours a day and up to 60 hours a week.

But any request by an employer to work overtime can be refused if it would result in working more than 10 hours per day or 50 hours a week. An employee does not have to give a reason for turning down overtime.

It’s also worth noting that conditions around overtime can vary depending on an employment contract or collective agreement, so always check the rules in your workplace before agreeing to (or declining) overtime work.


Overtime – Überstunden

Extra work – Mehrarbeit

Full time – Vollzeit

Part time – Teilzeit

Flexible working – Gleitzeit