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The Working Hours Act in Austria

21. November 2022

Long story short: In Austria you are not allowed to work for more than twelve hours per day and 60 hours per week, including overtime. Total working time may not exceed 48 hours per week based on a 17-week average. Nevertheless, there are many exceptions also included in the Working Hours Act. Read more about working hourse in Austria.

Austria stands out thanks to its excellent working conditions. For this reason, it is quite popular as a country of immigration for skilled employees. The convincing advantages not only include the good average salary in an EU comparison, but also legal regulations on working time for employees. Here you will find out everything you need to know about the topic of legally stipulated working hours in Austria.

Normal working hours 

The Working Hours Act in Austria prescribe a maximum working time of eight hours per working day, and a maximum permissible number of 40 weekly working hours. Working time is defined as the period of time between the beginning of work and the end of work. Breaks or rest periods are not included, and are also not paid, unless stipulated otherwise by collective agreements.b

Exceptions to the legal stipulated normal working time

The Working Hours Act includes several exceptions, so that working time can be organised in a more flexible manner in the interests of both employees and employers. The following deviations frequently occur when employed in Austria.

  1. 01

    Sector-specific collective agreements often stipulate shortened weekly working hours.

    For example, the normal weekly working time for sales employees or people working in the iron and metalworking industry in Austria is only 38.5 hours.

  2. 02

    Normal working hours may also be spread out differently on individual working days.

    In many Austrian companies, employees have shorter working hours on Fridays, for example from 8 a.m. until 12 noon. Accordingly, against the backdrop of the legally prescribed 40-hour work week, a daily working time of nine hours may apply to the other four working days.

  1. 03

    Working days falling between a holiday and the weekend are known as “Fenstertage” (bridge days) in Austria.

    In order to enable you to enjoy a longer and uninterrupted period of rest, your daily working time over a period of thirteen weeks may not exceed ten hours per day. In this way, the normal working time on such bridge days can be assigned to other working days.

Special forms of working time in Austria 

In addition to full-time work featuring a 40-hour work week or weekly working hours specified in a collective agreement, there are other employment options or special forms of working hours. In this case there are also a large number of provisions contained in the Working Hours Act in Austria. The most frequent forms are presented here:

  • Overtime: Working hours exceeding regular weekly or daily working hours are considered to comprise overtime. According to the law, up to 20 hours of overtime per week are allowed in the case of an increased workload. As a consequence, you are permitted to work up to twelve hours per day and 60 hours per week. However, you have the right to refuse overtime if this would cause you to work more than ten hours per day or more than 50 hours in a given week. You are not required to explain the reasons for your decision. In line with legal regulations, you must be paid an additional premium of at least 50 percent for overtime work. It must be pointed out that there are many exceptions to overtime. For this reason, overtime is precisely defined in the respective collective agreement or employment contract. 
  • Flexible working hours or flexitime: A flexible working time agreement means that you can decide yourself when your working day begins and when it ends within the time frame stipulated by the employer. Flexible working time also means that you can flexibly distribute your regular working hours. If you work longer hours in one day, you can amass time credits. On the other hand, minus hours are also possible. However, regular working hours are not normally permitted to exceed ten per day. In contrast, the flexible working time agreement allows for a maximum of twelve hours at work in one working day. However, this is subject to other conditions with respect to using time credits.
  • Part-time work: Part-time work in Austria means the agreed-upon average weekly working hours fall below the legally stipulated regular working time of 40 hours or the shorter regular working hours regulated by a collective agreement. However, part-time employees must not be put at a disadvantage compared to full-time employees, for example when it comes to special bonus payments. Salary or wages for part-time employees are calculated on a pro-rata basis of the salary of a full-time employee.
  • Short-time work: If a company finds itself in an economically difficult situation, it may temporarily reduce regular working hours and the corresponding salary or wages under certain conditions. However, in this case an agreement between the social partners is necessary i.e., a written agreement between the relevant trade union and specialist organisation of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. Moreover, short-time work goes hand in hand with receiving short-time work grants from the Austrian Public Employment Service (ams). If your employer prescribes short-time work, you will benefit from continued salary or wage payments in Austria, but with small-scale reductions. Furthermore, this approach ensures the ongoing existence of your position in the company. 
  • On-call duty: In Austria one refers to on-call duty as an employee committed to being available outside of regular working hours. In this case the employee may determine where he or she is physically located at this time. Generally speaking, on-call duty is to be agreed upon between the employee and employer and is not considered to be working time. According to the law, there are limits imposed upon availability during rest periods. This availability may not exceed the defined maximum of ten days per month. As soon as the on-call employee is called upon to work, his or her working hours begin. In this case the daily rest period may be reduced to eight hours when you have extended another daily rest period by at least four hours.
  • Travel time: If you are travelling on business i.e., you travel on behalf of your employer in order to perform your work at a different location, the time devoted to this is called travel time. A distinction is made between active and passive travel time. Active travel time is when you perform work during this time because, for example, you have to drive the car to reach a business appointment. For this reason, active travel time is considered by the law to comprise regular working hours. In contrast, passive working time means, for example, that you travel by train in a sleeping car or take a taxi or are a passenger in a car and do not perform any work during this period. In the case of passive travel time, the legally prescribed maximum of twelve hours of work in one day or 60 hours per week may be exceeded. The rules applying to payment for travel times are frequently laid down in collective agreements. But please note that the time you require to commute to work using public transportation is not considered to comprise travel time by the Austrian Working Hours Act.   
  • Night work: A person is considered a night worker if he or she regularly works between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. or works at least three hours during this time for 48 nights per calendar year. A night worker is entitled to additional rest periods if regular working time is exceeded by eight hours.

Maximum limits stipulated in the Working Hours Act 

We will summarise the main provisions for you. In Austria you are not allowed to work for more than twelve hours per day and 60 hours per week, including overtime. Total working time may not exceed 48 hours per week based on a 17-week average. Nevertheless, there are many exceptions also included in the Working Hours Act. In case of doubt, find out more by contacting your works council or the Austrian Chamber of Labour

Breaks and rest periods in the Working Hours Act

Any employee who works a lot has to also take sufficient breaks. These are important to maintain productivity and your health. The Austrian Working Hours Act and Austrian Law on Rest Periods contain a large number of legal provisions relating to breaks and rest periods in Austria.

  1. 01

    Austrian regulations prescribe a minimum rest period of at least 30 minutes for employees whose total working time exceeds six hours in a given day.

    Breaks serving the purpose of allowing employees to rest and recover are not considered as working time and are thus not included in regular working hours. If justified, you may split the 30-minute break into several breaks of at least ten minutes each. However, there are also several exceptions and special regulations regarding breaks, for example in shift work, for airline employees or train crews.

  2. 02

    In addition to breaks, a certain number of work-free hours for the purpose of recovery and regeneration are prescribed by law.

    As soon as the regular working time ends, an employee is entitled to eleven hours of uninterrupted leisure time i.e., the so-called daily rest period. Some collective agreements specify exceptions to the existing rules on rest periods. For example, daily rest periods for employees in the hospitality and catering industry or the accommodation sector can be reduced to eight hours. On-call duty can also shorten the stipulated eleven-hour rest period.

  3. 03

    The law defines an uninterrupted rest period of 36 hours on weekends.

    You have to begin the weekend no later than at 1 p.m. and are not permitted to work on Sundays at all. Employees are only allowed to perform their work on weekends in the case of legally permissible exceptions, for example within the context of the Working Hours Act or a collective agreement. One notable exception is shift work.

  1. 04

    If you work on weekends, an uninterrupted rest period of 36 hours must be provided in every calendar week, including an entire day during the week.

    This also applies to weekend rest.

  2. 05

    Weekend rest or weekly rest fall under the category of weekly rest periods in Austria.

    Employees who have to work during this period are entitled to so-called compensatory rest in the following working week in addition to the rendered working time. The number of hours (compensatory rest) is based on the period of work within the 36-hour period before starting work for the next working week.

  3. 06

    Each employee in Austria enjoys thirteen public holidays per year in Austria regardless of the person’s religion or the particular federal province in which he or she resides - unless the employee is affected by a legally permissible exception to the rule.

    Generally speaking, employees are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of at least 24 hours on public holidays. The public holiday rest must begin between midnight and 6 a.m. on the respective public holiday.

Working time for drivers 

Special working hour regulations exist for some vocational groups such as professional drivers of motor vehicles due to the particular working environment. These rules are designed to prevent overtiredness on the part of the person sitting behind the steering wheel and thus avoid any impairment of the individual’s ability to drive. However, there are diverging regulations applying to different professions. The following points apply to all motor vehicle drivers:  

  • Driving time refers to the entire time sitting behind the steering wheel during one’s work. This also includes waiting times resulting from traffic jams or at traffic lights. A distinction is made between daily and weekly driving times.
  • Break from driving or interrupting the journey: Driving times must be regularly interrupted by taking breaks from driving. This time serves the purpose of recovery and regeneration on part of drivers. As a result, no other work can be performed during these breaks. Breaks from driving comprise paid working time.
  • Working time includes driving time, breaks from driving, breaks and other working times. In other words, the total working time consists of the entire time between two rest periods.

Hospital Working Hours Act 

The so-called Hospital Working Hours Act applies to healthcare professionals working in hospitals or nursing facilities. Here you will find a brief summary of the most important points:

  • The upper limit for daily working time amounts to thirteen hours. A healthcare professional is allowed to work for up to 60 hours in a given week. However, the average weekly working time may not exceed 48 hours per week calculated on the basis of a 17-week period.
  • Extended periods of service are only permissible if the person is not continuously deployed, or there is no other alternative for important organisational reasons and a corresponding company agreement exists. For example, extended periods of service of 25 hours can apply for nursing staff and up to 29 hours for doctors and pharmacists (valid until 31 December 2020).
  • Breaks of 30 minutes apply after six hours of work, similar to the regulations contained in the Austrian Working Hours Act. However, in the case of extended periods of service of more than 25 hours, the employee must be allowed two breaks of 30 minutes each.
  • A healthcare professional is entitled to a daily rest period of eleven hours after daily working time is over or after an extended period of service. If you have worked between eight and thirteen hours, you must increase your rest period by an additional four hours once within the next ten calendar days. After extended periods of service, the rest period in the following 17 calendar days is increased by the number of hours exceeding thirteen hours of work.
  • The weekly period of rest is similar to the rules laid down in the Austrian Working Hours Act.

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