Austria, located in the heart of Central Europe, with a population of approximately 8.4 million people, is considered by many to be the ideal place for international employers to do business. It is one of the wealthiest, most politically stable and business friendly countries in Europe with booming markets and transparent laws. It is neighbored by the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland and has nine (9) independent federal states: Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Burgenland, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and the capital, Vienna. Austria has been a member of the European Union since 1995 and the Economic Monetary Fund since 2001 and is currently home to 350 international companies who operate their corporate headquarters from the country. This article is the first in a series and will provide an introduction to the basics of employment law in Austria and will focus on employment contracts and wage and hour law.
I. Sources of Employment Law
There are several different sources of employment law in Austria including, but not limited to, the Austrian Constitutional Act on Industrial Relations, Equal Treatment Act, Maternity Protection Act, Working Hours Act and Federal Action On Work Safety and Health Protection at Work.
II. Employment Contracts
Employment contracts in Austria can be oral or in writing. Most employment relationships are governed by Collective Bargaining Agreements. However, if there is no formal written contract or Collective Bargaining Agreement, employers must provide employees with a statement referred to as “Dienstzettel” setting forth the basic terms and conditions of the employment including the following:
- Name and address of employer;
- Name and address of employee;
- Date of commencement of employment;
- Basic salary or wage information;
- Pay periods;
- Hours of work;
- Annual leave entitlement;
- If the contract is for a definite period of time, the last day of employment; and
- If the contract is for an indefinite period of time, any notice periods applicable to terminations and resignations.
III. Wage and Hour
There is no national or regional required minimum wage in Austria. However, many Collective Bargaining Agreements do provide set minimum wages which will depend on the employee’s classification of work and length of employment.
Pursuant to the Working Time Act, unless otherwise provided for in a Collective Bargaining Agreement which can extend or shorten standard working hours, normal working hours are 8 (eight) hours per day and forty (40) hours per week. Employees who work in excess of forty (40) hours per week, must be compensated at an overtime rate of pay of time and one-half. If the work is performed on a Sunday, a holiday or during nighttime hours, employees must be compensated at a rate of two (2) times their regular rate of pay. If an employee works in excess of six (6) consecutive hours, the employer must provide the employee with a half an hour of unpaid break time. As of January of 2015, employees can waive the legal requirement that employers maintain records of breaks for up to thirty (30) minutes. Additionally, with respect to employees who work a fixed number of hours, employers no longer have to maintain detailed time records of hours worked. Employers are now permitted to confirm on a monthly basis that an employee on a fixed schedule worked their fixed scheduled number of hours.
After six (6) months of employment and for the first twenty-five (25) years of employment, every employee is legally entitled to five (5) weeks or thirty (30) working days of paid vacation. Saturday is counted as a working day. After twenty-five years of employment, employees are legally entitled to thirty-six (36) days of paid vacation time. The legally mandated paid vacation time is applicable to part-time and minimum wage employees.