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Can employers in Austria ask if staff are vaccinated against Covid-19?

As the pandemic continues, the rules are also changing - including in the workplace - with vaccination status now becoming a topic of debate.

Can employers in Austria ask if staff are vaccinated against Covid-19?
Can your boss ask for your vaccine credentials? (Photo by RAYMOND ROIG / AFP)

According to a labor law expert, employers in Austria have the right to ask employees if they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

In a report by the Kurier, labor lawyer Wolfgang Mazal said Austrian employers can ask staff if they have received the vaccine, but that doesn’t mean employees have to declare their vaccination status.

Confused? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the law?

Currently, there is no law in Austria that makes it mandatory to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to the Chamber of Labor Upper Austria, this means employees cannot be fired for refusing to be vaccinated.

The Chamber also confirmed they would support anyone who was dismissed for this reason in the courts.

Similarly, there is no law against an employer asking a member of staff if they have been vaccinated.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Austria to roll out Covid booster shots in autumn

However, employees are not legally obliged to answer truthfully, whether already employed or during an interview. 

Labor lawyer Mazal even says if someone is asked by their employer if they are vaccinated, they have a legal right to say, “I won’t tell you”.

Furthermore, in a statement by the Chamber of Labor Upper Austria, it is highlighted that vaccination status is considered as private health data, which is covered by data protection laws.

But employees can voluntarily announce their vaccination status to employers if they want to.

Jobs that require vaccination against Covid-19

In Austria, there are a small number of professions that require staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

This includes all new health and social workers in Vienna, plus health staff and some childcare workers in Burgenland, Lower Austria and Styria.

In terms of the law, mandatory vaccination in these cases only applies to new hires. For example, an employer can mandate that all job vacancies are only filled by people who have been fully vaccinated. 

READ ALSO: Austria to tighten Covid measures for unvaccinated from Wednesday

This is nothing new in Austria as staff in the health sector in Vienna have been required to be vaccinated against diphtheria, measles, tetanus, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B since 2017. 

However, some legal experts believe that while an employer cannot force existing employees in these roles to be vaccinated, they can fire staff for refusing vaccination as a “last resort”. 

The reason for this is that employers owe a duty of care to their staff and to customers. 

If a member of staff is refusing to get vaccinated, they are putting other staff and customers at risk – which could have legal repercussions for the company.

But an employer will need to have exhausted all other avenues before terminating someone for not getting vaccinated. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate suspended until August

Implementation of the controversial Covid-19 vaccine law has been suspended again following a vote in Austria's parliament.

Austria's compulsory vaccine mandate suspended until August

The suspension of Austria’s mandatory Covid-19 vaccination law has been officially extended until the end of August 2022.

This means the obligation for Austrian residents to get the vaccination currently does not apply, and those who are not vaccinated will not be fined.

The mandate was originally introduced in February but then suspended in March and would have automatically become law on June 1st if the government hadn’t voted in favour of extending the suspension.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June

The decision was made following a vote in the Main Committee on Wednesday, May 25th, and only the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) voted against the bill, according to ORF.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said the current epidemiological situation in Austria does not require the law to be implemented but it will be reviewed again in August.

Rauch also announced plans for enhanced education and more opportunities to get the vaccine from the end of August to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

READ ALSO: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

At a press conference on Tuesday about the easing of the mask mandate, Minister of the Constitution Karoline Edtstadler (ÖVP) said: “A focus on the vaccination obligation is currently not justified.”

However, ministers and health experts are still advising people to get a booster of the Covid-19 vaccine before the next winter season to protect against possible new variants and hospitalisation.

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