Working hours and holiday entitlement – What awaits you in Austria

René Tritscher
Whoever accepts a job in Austria is well protected by labour laws. The relationship between employers and employees is traditionally very good and is characterised by a sound and constructive basis for discussions between both sides within the context of Austria’s social partnership.
Quite a lot has already been achieved for the benefit of employees within the context of this positive culture of dialogue. In an international comparison, Austria is rated as one of the leaders, for example with respect to the number of days off which employees are entitled to. In conjunction with national holidays (13 in total), people in Austria actually have many days off from work. Vacation entitlements and working hours are regulated in the various collective salary agreements.

Working hours in Austria

The normal working time for full-time employees generally amounts to 40 hours per week and eight hours per day in Austria. A weekly working time of 38.5 hours each week is specified in several collective agreements. 

In principle, your employer can also specify that you work up to twelve hours a day and 60 hours per week. A normal working day of eight hours plus four hours of overtime means that an employee has reached the maximum permissible working time. The hours an employee works above and beyond the normal working hours are considered as overtime. In this case, the 11th and 12th working hours are voluntary. The employer cannot force you to work these additional hours.

For example, if you have to take care of children or sick relatives. the employer has to take such interests into consideration. In this case, your supervisor is not permitted to assign you to doing overtime work. 

The average weekly working time in a four-month reference period (17 weeks) is not allowed to exceed 48 hours per week.  

Legal entitlement to vacation time in Austria

Employees are entitled to a specified number of vacation days for every working year.  

The number of vacation days depends on how many days you work each week.  

  • 5 days/week: 25 working days
  • 4 days/week: 20 working days
  • 3 days/week: 15 working days
  • 2 days/week: 10 working days
  • 1 days/week: 5 working days

If you have worked 25 years or longer for the same employer, you are also entitled to a sixth week of vacation every year. Up to twelve years of prior employment in other jobs and periods of education can be credited to you. In this case, the required number of years of service with the same employer will be reduced to thirteen years. There can also be deviations to this rule in different collective agreements.

When am I entitled to take a vacation?

In the first six months of your first year of work, your holiday entitlement depends on the length of time you have worked. Each month in which you are employed full-time entitles you to two vacation days. You are entitled to your entire annual leave six months after beginning employment.  

Starting in your second year of work, you are entitled to your entire vacation time from the very beginning of the working year. Your working year normally begins on the date in which you begin working for the company.

However, please note that your vacation time for a specific working year expires two years after the end of the year in which the vacation time applies. This means you have to use up your annual leave within a period of three years so that it does not become invalid. The vacation days you use up are always deducted from the oldest unused annual leave.

Vacation days are for the purpose of relaxation and rest and cannot be compensated financially within the context of a valid employment relationship.  

Falling ill when on holiday

Imagine you look forward to your vacation the entire year, and then you fall ill. A person who has so much bad luck does not have to necessarily lose his vacation days.  

Vacation days can become sick leave under certain circumstances, namely:

  • if you are ill for more than three calendar days,
  • if you inform your employer within three days that you are ill, and
  • if you can present a verification of sick leave after your holiday, when you return to work.

If you fulfil these pre-requisites, these vacation days will not be deducted from the entitled vacation time.

Holiday pay

As an employer, you are legally entitled to a continuation of your salary or wages during your vacation time. You will be paid the same as if you were present at work. You are also entitled to receive the flat overtime allowance when you are on holiday.    

Holiday pay should not be confused with the holiday allowance or holiday bonus. An employee is not legally entitled to a holiday allowance, but this holiday allowance is customarily paid in Austria as a 14th monthly salary. The special payments are frequently regulated in the collective agreements.

When must I take a vacation?

You will have to consult your employer if you want to go on holiday. Employers must make sure that employees have sufficient opportunities to use up their annual leave.  

The underlying objective is to ensure that an employee’s entire annual leave is used up during the respective working year.

Your supervisor is not permitted to unilaterally order you to go on vacation.

Normally you will not only coordinate vacation time with the responsible executive but also with your colleagues to ensure that a suitable holiday replacement is available.

If you are employed in Austria, you have the possibility to specify a “personal holiday” in which your employer must allow you to go on holiday. For example, if you want to take a day off on your birthday or on a church holiday, please inform your employer. You can unilaterally specify which day you want to take off.

 

Your supervisor may forbid you from going on holiday for a limited time in order to ensure the continuation of normal business operations during periods characterised by a heavy workload.

Going on vacation during the notice period

Frequently an employee still has unused vacation time at the time he or she is given a notice of dismissal. In the case of a dismissal, you are not required to use up your remaining vacation time during the notice period.

At the end of an employment relationship, the employer is required to pay the employer for the unused vacation time.  

Working during your holiday

In principle, the vacation days to which employees in Austria are entitled are for recreation and recuperation.  

You are only permitted to take on a job during your holidays if your employment contract allows for this. Take a look at your employment contract to see if secondary employment is permissible.  

The exceptions to this rule are volunteer work or work for your own purposes, for example renovation work in your flat.  

You neither have to be available by phone or e-mail when you are on holiday. Your employer should only bother you during your vacation in cases of emergency.

Special days of leave and leave of absence

Employees in Austria are not only entitled to legally stipulated vacation time. It is possible to take advantage of a certain number of special days of leave on special occasions, for example for your wedding, changing your place of residence or to attend funerals of relatives.  

You can find more detailed information on this topic in the corresponding collective agreements (in German) for various sectors.

You are entitled to paid family care leave if you have to take care of sick relatives living in the same household with you.  

Parents are entitled to childcare leave if a child is ill. This also applies to parents who do not live in the same household as their children.  

Generally speaking, parents are entitled to one week of childcare leave per year if needed.  

Working time regulations may vary in individual professions, for example with respect to shift work. Special rules also apply to apprentices or pregnant employees. Labour law issues are dealt with in the individual collective agreements. If you are interested in getting a job in Austria, inquire about the relevant details in advance as to which collective agreements apply to the particular company.

René Tritscher
Managing Director ABA - Work in Austria

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