Mag. Balazs Esztegar LL.M.
Attorney-at-law Vienna

Piaristengasse 41/10
1080 Vienna, Austria
Tel. +43 1 997 4102
Fax +43 1 997 4102-99

Corona virus: Labour law issues

The Coronavirus situation in Austria has led to extraordinary measures with a major impact on labour relations and the operation of businesses. In this article, we have therefore tried to summarise the most relevant legal aspects based on the information published by the government.

Operation of shops

From 16.03.2020, all business premises that are not necessary for the maintenance of daily life must be closed. This applies not only to commercial activities, but also to services (such as massage or yoga instruction) provided in such premises. Exceptions, according to the Chamber of Commerce, are the following businesses:

  • grocery
  • drugstores
  • pharmacy
  • drugstores pharmaceutical stores
  • medical and nursing services
  • trade in nutritional products for animals
  • agricultural trading
  • petrol stations
  • maintenance of safety equipment
  • banks
  • post and telecommunications
  • freight forwarding, parcel delivery
  • cleaning
  • public transport
  • tobacconists and newsagents
  • maintenance services necessary to maintain critical infrastructure
  • emergency services

In addition, all catering facilities may only remain open until 3:00 pm. The maximum of 100 people remains in force. This includes hotels, cafés, bars, discos and cake shops, among others.

The present measure is in force until 22.03.2020.

Situation of empoylees

The employment relationship is basically unchanged by the crisis situation. As long as the employer's business is not affected by the above total closure and the employee is not quarantined, he/she is still obliged to work. However, employers are asked by the government to allow working from home (home office) where possible. The employer may have the right to instruct the employee to do so, if this is provided for in the employment contract or collective agreement - but the employee has no subjective right to demand or request this possibility.

Termination of employment

If the employer terminates the employment relationship because he/she cannot continue to employ the employee, it this termination must in principle comply with the labour law rules. In my opinion, the present situation does not entitle the employer to immediate dismissal (Entlassung), but only to termination (Kündigung). This means that in the event of termination, the employer must observe the notice period. Only if the employee fails to perform the work without cause is it possible to dismiss him/her with immediate effect.

Important: The "deregistration" refers to social security only. If the employer "only" deregisteres employee from social insurance but does not inform him (at least verbally) of the termination, this does not terminate the employment relationship.

In the present situation, it is likely that employers will in many cases try to reach an accord with employees to terminate the employment relationship by mutual agreement (einvernehmliche Lösung). If this is not in the employee's best interests, it is advisable to seek legal advice before agreeing to this, as far as possible.

The government has also announced a new "Kurzarbeit" procedure for employers to avoid having to terminate employment contracts. Details of this will be available in the coming days.


As schools close, many workers will be forced to stay at home with their children. However, under labour law, unless the child is ill, this can only be done for a maximum of 2 weeks (in a calendar year), with the employer having to continue to pay the salary. The government has announced that if the employer exempts the employee from work (for a maximum of 3 weeks), the state will reimburse one third of the wage costs.