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HEALTH

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

Austria has reintroduced the possibility employees can register for sick leave by telephone, in light of the increase in Covid-19 cases in the country. Here's what you need to know.

You can now call your doctor to get sick leave, rather than make a visit in person (Photo by René Ranisch on Unsplash)
You can now call your doctor to get sick leave, rather than make a visit in person (Photo by René Ranisch on Unsplash)

The new legislation was introduced in November last year, and was in place until July 2021. But given the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Austria the government has deemed it necessary to again relax the rules around calling in sick.

What is the new rule?

The new legislation allows employees to call their doctor in order to be officially signed off sick, rather than visit them for an appointment. Over the summer it was only possible for employees to do this if they believed they might be suffering from a Covid-19 infection. For other illnesses they needed to see a doctor to get a sick note but now they have the option of calling once again.

Can’t I normally call in sick by telephone? 

In general if you need to take some sick days from work, the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK) must be notified for official sick leave as well as your employer. 

According to the ÖGK you must go to a doctor to “determine the illness and the associated incapacity for work”. 

It cites as an example a sprained ankle, which would stop a roofer from working, but would not stop an employee carrying out a desk job. 

The sick leave begins on the day the doctor reports you as sick. In most cases in Austria, people use their family doctor. The doctor writes a sick note and notifies the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK) that you will be off work. 

Supposing I want to use a different doctor?

If you want to choose a doctor other than your family doctor to establish if you should be on sick leave, you as the patient must send written confirmation of the sick leave to the ÖGK by post or fax or hand it in to an ÖGK customer service point. However, some elective doctors will do this for their patients.

What if I am in hospital?

If you have been admitted  as an inpatient admission to a hospital, spa or rehabilitation facility, this automatically leads to a notification of illness with the ÖGK.

How long could this new legislation last?

The legislation is in place until the end of the year, but ÖGK chairman Andreas Huss said in an interview with broadcaster ORF’s Ö1 channel  that the new measures could be in place until the end of the fourth wave in Austria. He said he could even imagine virtual doctor’s appointments, using video conferencing, becoming a permanent solution in determining sick leave. According to the Krone Zeitung, this has already been agreed in some federal states.

Won’t people take advantage of the fact they don’t have to see a doctor in person any more? 

It was also possible to register as sick with a doctor over the phone in 2021 until the end of June. The Medical Association believes telephone sick leave was previously “handled responsibly” and says there was also no increase in sick leave, according to the Krone Zietung. 

What if I want to go to the country or to visit family abroad during sick leave?

You must inform the ÖGK if you wish to change your place of residence during your sick leave, giving your exact address.  If you want to leave Austria you need to get consent by submitting an application in person, by post or to a customer service point. 

Consent should be obtained before you travel.

How much sick leave am I entitled to? 

According to  Thompson Practical Law  under section 2 of the Sick Pay Act, (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz (EFZG)), in Austria employees are entitled to a full wage for up to six weeks of sick leave. 

Entitlement to full remuneration increases to:

  • Eight weeks if the employee has been employed for one year without interruption.
  • Ten weeks, if the employee has been employed for 15 years without interruption.
  • 12 weeks if the employee has been employed for 25 years without interruption.
  • After the period of paid sick leave expires, the employee is entitled to a further four weeks on half-pay.

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WORKING IN AUSTRIA

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.

Vocabulary

Overtime – Überstunden

Extra work – Mehrarbeit

Full time – Vollzeit

Part time – Teilzeit

Flexible working – Gleitzeit

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