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

Coronavirus: Compensation according to the Epidemic Law

The Epidemics Act 1950 regulates not only the powers of the authorities in connection with the containment of notifiable diseases, but also contains in its III. Chapter explicit provisions on compensation payments to persons and companies that are affected by such measures. Due to the measures decreed by the Federal Government for the containment of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19), this law, which otherwise receives little attention, suddenly gains in importance.

The Epidemic Law 1950 enables the state authorities to intervene extensively in the personal freedom of citizens in order to take appropriate precautions to prevent and combat notifiable diseases or to contain their spread. These include - with different preconditions - among others:

  • isolation of sick or suspected sick people ("quarantine")
  • disinfection of rooms and objects
  • exclusion of individual persons from educational establishments and the closure of educational establishments
  • restrictions on food traffic and water use
  • prohibition of events with large crowds
  • operating restrictions or closure of commercial operations, or
  • traffic restrictions for certain regions or localities and with foreign countries.

The district administrative authority, in German: Bezirksverwaltungsbehörde (magistrate or county council) as the health authority is responsible for imposing these measures. However, some of these measures, such as quarantine, are subject to supervision by the district court, which must be notified of any such measure.

These far-reaching measures are on the one hand capable of massively restricting the citizens' personal freedom (i.e. also spatial freedom of movement) and on the other hand can have a considerable impact on economic activities. In particular, a quarantine or a restriction of operations or even the closure of a business can lead to a significant loss of earnings. The question of who has to bear this loss is therefore rightly raised.

Compensation payment

The Epidemics Act contains different compensation payments.

For example, appropriate compensation is granted for objects that have been subjected to official disinfection and have been damaged to such an extent that they can no longer be used for their intended purpose, and for destroyed objects. The person who was in possession of the object is entitled to this compensation. The right to compensation is lost if the owner or holder of the object has committed an act or omission contrary to the provisions of the Epidemic Law or the orders issued on the basis thereof with regard to the disease for the prevention or control of which disinfection or destruction was ordered.

If this is not possible, the amount of the damage can be determined by an expert.

Compensation for loss of earnings

Natural and legal persons (companies, associations, etc.) as well as private partnerships are entitled, under certain conditions, to compensation for the financial disadvantage suffered by them as a result of the impediment to their gainful work due to measures under the Epidemic Law, if they 

  • were quarantined,
  • they have been prohibited from supplying food,
  • they have been prohibited from exercising a gainful activity,
  • they are employed in an undertaking restricted or closed within its establishment,
  • they operate a business which has been restricted or closed down,
  • they live in apartments or buildings that have been ordered to be removed, or
  • they live or work in a place where traffic regulations have been imposed and they suffer a loss of income as a result.

The compensation shall be paid for each day covered by the official order.

Amount of the remuneration

The compensation for persons who are in an employment relationship (employees) is to be calculated according to the regular income in the sense of the Continued Payment of Remuneration Act. Employees are therefore paid the same salary that they would receive in the case of illness. Their employers must pay them remuneration on the dates normally applicable to the payment of remuneration in the company, i.e. as if they were paying them their salary.

The claim for remuneration against the Republic of Austria is transferred to the employer at the time of payment and the employer can claim the remuneration paid to the employee as compensation from the federal government. The employer's contribution to the statutory social insurance is to be paid by the employer for the period of the disability and the supplement according to § 21 BUAG must be compensated by the federal government.

For self-employed persons and companies, the compensation is to be calculated on the basis of the comparable extrapolated economic income.

In any case, any amounts which the person entitled to compensation receives as a result of such a disability under other regulations or agreements as well as from any other gainful employment taken up during the period of the disability shall be credited against the amount of compensation due.

Time limit for claiming compensation

The claim for compensation for damaged or destroyed objects must be made within six weeks after the object has been disinfected or returned or after notification of the destruction. The claim for compensation for loss of earnings must also be asserted within six weeks of the date on which the official measures were lifted. If the claim is not asserted within the time limit, it shall expire.

The district administrative authority (Bezirskverwaltungsbehörde) in whose area these measures were taken is responsible for claims for compensation based on the Epidemic Law.