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Employment Rights During the Corona Crisis

This is an unsettling time for workers. What are your options and where can you find support?

By Chris Cummins

The authorities, as part of the national social distancing project, are encouraging employers to offer as many workers as possible the option of working from home.

Information on your employment rights in Austria during the corona crisis in different languages on the website of ÖGB and Arbeiterkammer in English, Français, български, Bosanski/Hrvatski/Srpski, Polski, Românesc, Türkçe, اللغة العربية

Ultimately, however, the decision lies with your boss; you can’t simply decide to stay at home because you are scared of infection.

That said, you do have options if you are considered high-risk for severe health implications of an infection. For example, you are over the age of 60 or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease. In these cases you employer has a duty of care to protect you by allowing you to stay away from your place of work where, via inevitable human interaction, contagion is more of a risk.

The options include either through home office, but also paid „leave of absence“ or shorter working hours („Kurzarbeit“).

If you are worried about your health status and haven’t come to an agreement with your employer, the Austrian Chamber of Labour (AK - Arbeiterkammer) urges you to contact your doctor, by telephone, to arrange an official document to excuse you from the work-place.

While there is no evidence of a particular risk to pregnant women, the Austrian Labour Inspectorate advises employers not to employ pregnant women in jobs involving direct contact to customers.

Even for employees of normal health, your boss can order you to transfer to home office even if you would prefer go to your normal place of work. However, in this case, you have the right to expect any extra personal expenses incurred to be compensated and that your employer provides the necessary technology to do your work.

How does quarantine affect you?

Many people at the moment in Austria are in obligatory quarantine because of close contact with an infected person, or because they live in an area that has been geographically in quarantine, such as the Paznaun valley or St. Anton am Arlberg.

If you are ordered into enforced quarantine you can’t lose your job and your salary must be paid. This is called “leave of absence” in Austrian labour law. The employer will later be able to get your wages refunded by the state.

If you are in quarantine but still fit, you can be asked to continue to work as long as you have all the facilities and technology to make that possible.

If you are in a geographically quarantined area and your work place in the same area, you can still go to work.

What happens if the shop where I work is closed?

Shop closures are aimed at avoiding as much close contact between people in Austria as possible – again this is part of the policy of social distancing.

Your boss still has the right to use the time of closure to set you other tasks, such as repairs and maintenance, preparation or training.

Within reason, according the Austrian labour law, you must be prepared to perform work that it outside your normal range of activities.

If your boss decides to send you home, you must still be paid your salary.

There is the option of “short time work” („Kurzarbeit“) which allows a reduction in working hours to as low as zero hours, while maintaining the employment relationship and granting an almost full wage compensation to employees.

Protection At Work

Employers have to provide “every necessary and reasonable measures to avoid infection”; that means in the case of corona, disinfectant, soap and instructions on how to best keep up a hygienic regime at work.

The Austrian Chamber of Labour has a hotline for “Job and Corona”: 0800 22 12 00 80. It is available from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m.

Of course, the level of protection depends on the work you are doing. Medical staff with direct contact with patients will need disposable gloves and face-masks etc. but that won’t be necessary for other professions.

If you are dissatisfied with the level of protection offered by your employee, you should contact your union representatives or any doctors provided by your firm.

Unemployment Rights

Many people are faced with unemployment these days and need to take advantage of unemployment benefits.

The Labour Market Service, Arbeitsmarktservice (or AMS) asks you, if possible, to avoid coming to their offices in person

Instead, you can file for unemployment by the eAMS-account on the internet or call the AMS SERVICELINE.

The number is 05 09 04 940.

You can also write write an e-mail to

The AMS urges you not to worry. Even if you are a couple of days late with your application, you will not lose your benefits. The AMS will accept your filing for unemployment retroactively

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