Health For Members

EXPLAINED: What happens if you’re off sick for a long time in Austria

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What happens if you’re off sick for a long time in Austria
Your Austrian health insurance will pay a portion of your salary if you're off sick for a longer period of time, and also manages your long-term care insurance if necessary. Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Austrian health and social insurance is set up so that long absences from work due to sickness need not leave you in financial ruin. But there’s a few complexities in how being off sick for more than three days works.


It’s something out of many of our worst fears – the possibility that we might get sick for a long period of time.

In addition to the stress of fighting whatever illness has us off work, there’s the worry about what it might mean financially or for our jobs.

In Austria, Krankengeld, literally “sick money” or “sick pay” – is designed to at least mitigate financial concerns, so you can focus on getting better.

When is Krankengeld paid out?

If you’re off sick in Austria, most jobs will ask you for a sick note from your doctor -and you'll definitely need one if you’re off for longer than three business days in a row. Your doctor will typically make a copy for you, your employer, and your health insurance fund – or Krankenkasse.

If you’re off sick for three days or less, your employer will typically continue to pay you your full salary. If your illness lasts longer than that, your employer can stop paying your salary. However, this is also the point where your Krankenkasse takes over and begins paying you sick pay – or Krankengeld. This is designed to make sure that neither you nor your employer are on the hook for the costs of you being off sick for a longer term.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the Austrian healthcare system works


How much Krankengeld do I get and how long does it last?

Once you’re off for longer than three days, the public health insurance funds – or gesetzliche Krankenkassen – ÖGK, which is the insurance for most people in Austria, will pay you half of your gross salary in Krankengeld, for up to six weeks. Any one-off payments like Christmas bonuses are also taken into account.

If you’re off sick for longer than six weeks, your Krankengeld eligibility increases to 60 percent of your gross salary, paid out from the 43rd day of you being off sick, as your doctor documents in your sick note. Your Krankenkasse has to compensate you with back payments if necessary.

You remain eligible for Krankengeld for up to 26 weeks – or six months. This entitlement increases to 52 weeks – a full year – if you were paying contributions to a public health insurer for at least six of the twelve months prior to you going on sick leave. In certain cases, Krankengeld entitlements can extend for up to 78 weeks – or a year and a half.

People in Austria can remain eligible for sick pay for six months, a year, or even a year and a half in some situations. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Some private insurance companies may offer you additional benefits for those willing to pay a bit extra. One example might be a Verdienstausfall benefit – which covers the difference between your regular salary and your Krankengeld payments – as only a portion of your regular salary is covered.

If you’ve become injured or ill as a direct result of performing your workplace duties, your employer’s insurance will typically cover associated costs, so Krankengeld may also be managed differently in that case.

READ ALSO: What kind of insurance do I need to have in Austria?


What if I’m a student, self-employed, on an apprenticeship, or unemployed?

Apprentices and the unemployed in Austria are entitled to Krankengeld. Students who work more than 20 hours a week may also be entitled to Krankengeld, as their main occupation is their job rather than studies. Students who work less than 20 hours a week are generally not entitled to Krankengeld.

The self-employed can typically purchase extra protection from SVS that gives them eligibility for Krankengeld based on their regular contribution amounts in the previous year before they went on sick leave.

To claim it, people insured with SVS typically need to get a sick note confirming their inability to work and file it with their local SVS office within seven days. They then need to file a new sick note, confirming their continued inability to work every fourteen days. If you miss a deadline, your Krankengeld payments could be interrupted or suspended.

Additionally, self-employed can draw the sickness benefit for the first time after taking ou the supplementary insurance after a waiting period of at least six months. This doesn't apply, though, if your incapacity to work resulted from an accident at work that occurred after you applied for supplementary insurance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance


What caveats are there?

If you’re collecting Krankengeld, you’re expected to be recovering. While travel within Austria is allowed, your health insurance fund may suspend your payments if you travel abroad without first clearing it with them and your doctor. Your doctor may advise a trip abroad in certain cases – for example if the climate elsewhere favours your recovery or you can get care from a family member. If your doctor clears this, you can travel – but you still need to inform your health insurer.

You also won’t generally have to pay your public insurer the usual fees while you’re off sick, but you’ll still have to pay any necessary taxes and contributions to your pension. €30 per day remains tax-free. Anything above that is taxed at around 20 percent. Your health insurer will typically take care of these payments for you.

Lastly, Krankengeld can obviously run out. So you won’t have longer term coverage if you become completely unable to work. If that happens, you can apply to take out your pension – provided you’ve been working in Austria and paying pension contributions for at least 15 years.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Which Austrian insurance do you need for accidents?

Some private insurance companies also offer Berufsunfähigkeitversicherung, which replaces the income of someone who becomes completely unable to practice their profession. People in higher-risk professions like builders may have this type of insurance. If they become unable to work anymore, this insurance will pay out their salaries until they reach retirement age.

This type of insurance though, can be expensive. Policies with higher payout rates in the event of being unable to work anymore can run you over €100 per month.


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