A GUIDE TO EMPLOYMENT IN AUSTRIA - ALL ABOUT (PAID & UNPAID) LEAVE
Austria has some of the most comprehensive and outstanding employee benefits in Europe, including some wonderful support for those who have children. After explaining key laws and helpful organizations and contracts, pay, and paycheck deductions in the first two posts of our Guide to Employment in Austria series, in this third installment we will give you an overview of many of the different kinds of leave that you are entitled to as an employee in Austria. You may be surprised by how many types there are!
VACATION TIME & SPECIAL LEAVE
First let’s talk about vacation time (Urlaub). Every person employed in Austria is entitled to five weeks (25 days, based on a five-day work week) of paid vacation time (annual leave) each year, and this is the case even for part-time and minimally-employed people (geringfügige Beschäftigung). After you have 25 countable years of work you are entitled to a sixth week of paid vacation time. It is almost always the case that your vacation days build up proportionally over time when you start a new job - for example, after one month of working a new employee would be entitled to two days of vacation. It is thus not required for an employer to agree to let you take a longer vacation when you have only recently started working for the company. And finally, vacation days must be agreed upon ahead of time between yourself and your employer.
In Austria there is also something called Sonderurlaub, or special leave. This is generally between 1-3 days of paid leave and is granted in the case of very special and specific events, such as a marriage or a death in the immediate family, having a baby, or moving to a new home.
Next we come to parental leave - in Austria both mothers and fathers have the right to take time off after a new baby joins the family, and your job is safe even if you take months and months off work to care for your baby! Maternity leave, or Mutterschutz, generally begins eight weeks before a woman’s due date and ends eight weeks after she gives birth. During this time a woman receives what is known as Wochengeld, or maternity pay, and this amounts to the average income she was earning in the 13 weeks prior. Once a woman announces her pregnancy and through the time period of her official maternity and parental leave, she may not be fired or laid off from her job (as long as she has a permanent employment contract). And good news for those of us from other countries - you are entitled to maternity leave from your job in Austria regardless of your citizenship, how long you’ve been employed, or how many hours you work!
After maternity leave ends, parental leave or Elternkarenz begins. Families are entitled to have a parent stay home with a baby until the child is 24 months old, during which time the parent staying home may not be fired. The parent who is not working does not receive their income during this time, but staying home is made affordable by the childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld) that all families are entitled to receive during this time. Parents can decide between themselves how to split up the parental leave time - whether one parent takes all that time off work or whether they split it between the two parents. Parents may trade time staying home a maximum of two times (for example, parent 1/parent 2/parent 1), and each period must be at least two months in length. At the first switch of parental leave from one parent to another, both parents may stay home with their baby together for one month, though if a family decides to take this option, the maximum total parental leave will be shortened by one month. During this time the childcare allowance may still only be received by one parent.
SICKNESS AND CARING DUTIES
So what happens to your job when you get sick? Paid sick leave (Krankenstand) is granted to all employees, but make sure to call your employer immediately to let them know when you are ill. Also, be sure to go to a doctor to get written confirmation that you’re ill, as your employer has the right to request this (though you certainly do not have to tell them what is ailing you!).
It is also possible in Austria to take a paid leave of absence from your job, called Pflegefreistellung or carer’s leave, in order to care for a sick member of your household, or in the case that your normal babysitter unexpectedly cannot watch your child. The maximum amount of time you can take for this special leave is normally one week per year, though it might be extended to two weeks in special situations.
How about if you have a job but want to take some time off to get an advanced degree or pursue some other kind of study program or training related to furthering your career? In this case you can apply to your employer and the Austrian Employment Service (AMS) for a type of unpaid leave called educational leave (Bildungskarenz). Your employer is not required to grant this kind of leave, but it is often possible to work something out. The minimum period for educational leave is two months and the maximum is twelve months within a time period of four years; you do not have to take all the leave in one block of time, but each period of leave must be at least two months. You may be entitled to receive unemployment compensation during your time away from work, so make sure to check out the details on the links above!
As some of us from elsewhere know, not every country in the world has so many types of leave for employees, and often not as much support for parents and families. These kinds of employee benefits are one of the reasons why Austria is such a beloved expat destination, and why it is consistently ranked high on lists of great places to raise families.
We hope our Guide to Employment in Austria has provided you with some helpful information about key employment laws, contracts and pay, and the different types of leave you may be eligible for as an employee here. But this is a very complex topic, so make sure to follow the links within the posts to find out all the details about any topic you’d like to know more about!