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The participation in employment of people with disabilities

Participation in working life is one – if not the main – element for participation in society as a whole and for an inclusive society.

In line with disability mainstreaming, people with disabilities fundamentally have access to all of the measures offered by general labour market policy, and also to the corresponding support. However, a specific need for support in the workplace or on a person’s path into the labour market arises from special situations in life, from the person’s age and life course and from particular forms of limitation, or from the overlapping of disability and other background situations which may make integration into employment more difficult.

In the form of the inclusion package which was adopted by Parliament in October 2017, the strengthening of participation in working life and the further development and continuation of the existing programmes for people with disabilities remain the focus of disability policy.

For this reason, a package of measures was created with the involvement of important stakeholders, which includes a combination of new business-focused as well as people-focused programmes in addition to the needs-oriented extension of existing offers. These measures are now being implemented in stages.

In this process, particular consideration is given to the sustainability and accurate targeting of the measures, which are used in a balanced way to help companies as well as directly supporting the people involved. For example, as part of the newly-created promotion of inclusion, employers can obtain  subsidies from the Sozialministeriumservice when initially hiring a person with disabilities receiving special support (registered disabled person).

Employment of People with Disabilities Act (Disability Employment Act)

Together with the Federal Disability Act and the Federal Disability Equality Act, the Disability Employment Act  forms the legal basis for disability law.

It contains important regulations for the following fields:

  • the employment of people with disabilities;
  • the compensation tax;
  • people with disabilities who receive special support;
  • disabled persons’ representatives, and
  • protection against discrimination

The final report on the project Evaluation of the Effects of the Amendment to the Disability Employment Act is available for download from the brochure service.

The obligation to employ people with disabilities and the compensatory tax 

Employment obligation

According to the Disability Employment Act (Section 1 para. 1), all businesses  in Austria which employ 25 or more employees are obliged to take on one disabled person with beneficiary status (registered disabled person) for every 25 employees.

For example, a company which employs 100 persons is obliged to employ four registered disabled persons (obligatory number of disabled employees: four). Employees with certain particularly severe disabilities (e.g. blind persons, wheelchair users) are counted double.

In relation to the employment of people with disabilities, employers are exempted from local authority tax, from payments to the Family Burdens Equalisation Fund, from the Chamber of Commerce fee, and in Vienna from the tax to finance the underground system.

The compensation tax

If the obligation to employ people with disabilities is not, or not wholly fulfilled, the employer has to pay a compensatory tax per unfilled obligatory post and month.

Compensatory tax in 2020
Per month and unfilled obligatory post in the case of 25-99 employees €267
Per month and unfilled obligatory post in companies with 100-399 employees €375
Per month and unfilled obligatory post in companies with more than 400 employees €398

All of this money flows into the Compensation Tax Fund. IT is earmarked for the support of the integration into employment of people with disabilities. Subsidies from this fund can be obtained by those affected as well as by their line manager.

People with disabilities who receive special support (registered disabled persons)

Austrian citizens with a degree of disability of at least 50 percent can apply for an official decision (Bescheid) stating that they are disabled persons receiving special support (also known  as registered disabled persons).

Disabled persons receiving special support benefit from numerous advantages:

  • Special protection against dismissal and redundancy: Employers have to obtain the agreement of the Disabled Persons Committee before they can make a person redundant. 
  • Subsidies in relation to working life: The range of offers extends from financial benefits via technical working aids to special training courses.
  • Additional holidays: This is permitted insofar as it is provided for in the respective collective agreement, civil service employment regulations or company agreement.
  • Income tax allowance: Tax allowances can be applied for at the local tax office from a degree of disability of 25 percent.

Persons holding a disability pass are not automatically recipients of special support in the meaning of the Disability Employment Act. 

Special protection against dismissal and redundancy

Alongside the obligation to employ people with disabilities, Section 8 of the Disability Employment Act also provides for increased protection against dismissal and redundancy for people with disabilities.

The employment relationship of a registered disabled person can only be terminated if a period of notice of at least four weeks is adhered to, and if the Disabled Persons Committee based in the provincial offices of the Sozialministeriumservice agrees. In exceptional cases, agreement can also be obtained retrospectively, but the redundancy or dismissal is not effective without it.

Special protection against dismissal has been viewed by employers, but also by the representatives of people with disabilities, as an obstacle to hiring disabled persons. For this reason, the special protection against dismissal and redundancy has been relaxed in coordination with the social partners and the associations of people with disabilities. For new employment relationships concluded after 1 January 2011 with registered disabled persons, the special protection only applies after four years, although there are some statutory exceptions.  Existing employment relationships are not affected.

Support offers from the Sozialministeriumservice

For years now, the Sozialministeriumservice has offered a broad range of support instruments to support participation in employment, including various project-based and individual subsidies or a combination of the two.

Project subsidies to support participation in working life

Occupational Assistance Network (NEBA)

The Occupational Assistance Network (NEBA) gives people with disabilities and young people who are at risk of exclusion a chance in a labour market which is difficult for them. NEBA, with its occupational assistance services (youth coaching, production schools, vocational training assistance, work assistance and job coaching), forms the umbrella brand for this highly differentiated system of support for people with disabilities, and is the core of the subsidies landscape and a key element of Austrian labour market policy.

Here, the Sozialministeriumservice – with the support of the European Social Fund and in cooperation with numerous partner organisations – makes a valuable contribution towards the participation in working life of people with disabilities.

The operational programme Employment in Austria 2014 – 2020, and particularly the respective investment priorities, form the basis for the spending of the resources of the European Social Fund (ESF). Of the entire ESF funding which is made available to Austria for the period 2014-2020, almost 30%  is reserved for measures for the inclusion into employment of people with disabilities.

The youth coaching, production school and vocational training assistance programmes of the Network for Occupational Assistance (NEBA) for young people with disabilities and for young people who are at risk of exclusion from the labour market, are co-financed with funding from the European Social Fund. This also applies to the fit2work consultancy services for companies which employ older workers with health issues.

These NEBA programmes also play an important role in the government scheme for education and training up to the age of 18, as they also reach those young people who would otherwise leave the educational and training system prematurely.

Youth coaching aims to provide future perspectives for young people via advice, support and case management. Youth coaching is not a vocational training course in itself – it is a counselling programme to ensure that young people do not fall through the social safety net and end up on the streets. The goal is to enable them to successfully transition into working life.

Production schools are intended to help all young people who have a need for support due to deficits in the field of defined basic competences to become fit to enter or successfully complete higher vocational training or vocational training in a school) . Production schools cultivate individual abilities for the next step towards training.

Vocational training assistance supports young people with disabilities and other factors which make it difficult to find a job for them by providing an extended apprenticeship or a partial qualification in accordance with Section 8b of the Occupational Training Act (BAG). These young people are supported during their entire training, in companies as well as in school, and their training pathways are thus lastingly secured.

Work assistance supports people with disabilities in obtaining and keeping a job. Companies which want to hire people with disabilities receive support from the work assistance scheme on issues of the legal framework, information about subsidies and help in case of problems in the firm.

Job coaching provides direct individual support in the workplace for people who have a wider-ranging need for assistance (e.g. due to a learning disability or multiple issues). It promotes their specialist and communications-related abilities as well as their social skills, so that they can fulfil the demands made upon them independently and over the long term.

Skills training

In skills training projects, people with disabilities are offered targeted measures to obtain skills and thus increase their chances of participating in the labour market.

Personal assistance in the workplace

Personal assistance in the workplace is an individual service in which people with disabilities receive the individual and personal support which they need  in order to work or complete vocational training. The goal of personal assistance in the workplace is needs-oriented, self-determined, self-organised and equal participation in working life.

Fit2work

The occupational (re-)integration management scheme fit2work offers information, advice and support to employees who have been off work for longer periods and/or have health problems, people who are unemployed and have health issues as well as companies and employees’ representatives. The goal is to preserve and increase these people’s ability to work, to prevent them leaving working life prematurely. and to lastingly reintegrate them into the work process.

Individual subsidies to compensate for the increased costs/effort involved in employing people with disabilities

In addition to project subsidies, a large number of individual and customised subsidies are offered to people with disabilities and/or their employers to provide support and/or compensate for the additional costs and effort involved and disability-related lower productivity.

Individual subsidies can be granted for:

  • work and training (technical work aids, training costs, training allowances, the assumption of costs for sign language interpreters, etc.);
  • wage subsidies (inclusion subsidy/plus, wage and workplace subsidies, inclusion bonus for apprentices, security allowance for self-employed persons with disabilities), and
  • mobility (orientation and mobility training, acquisition of an assistance dog, mobility allowance, obtaining a driving licence, purchasing a vehicle, etc.).

Subsidies for companies

A comprehensive programme of subsidies for non-wage labour costs is designed to encourage companies to create jobs for people with disabilities and to ensure that the new employment relationship is a long-term one.

Inclusion subsidies/inclusion subsidies plus

If a company has received an integration allowance from the Public Employment Service (AMS) for a registered disabled person (degree of disability at least 50%), an inclusion subsidy of 30 percent of their gross wage can subsequently be obtained for a period of twelve months. Companies which are not obliged to employ people with disabilities can receive an inclusion subsidy amounting to 37.5 percent of the person’s gross wage (inclusion subsidy Plus).

Inclusion bonus for apprentices/trainees

The inclusion bonus supports certain companies when they hire apprentices/trainees who are registered disabled persons. This support is possible during the entire duration of the apprenticeship or extended apprenticeship regardless of the age of the apprentice/trainee. The amount depends on the applicable rate of compensatory tax.

Wage subsidy

Wage subsidies can be granted to companies for a registered disabled person (degree of disability at least 50%)  in accordance with the reduced level of performance of the person which has been established. The subsidy is dependent on the disability-related reduction in performance.

Job safeguarding subsidy

The job safeguarding subsidy can be granted for people with a level of disability of at least 30%. The specific amount of this non-wage labour cost subsidy is determined by how endangered the job is, the age of the employee affected, and his/her opportunities to find another job in the near future. In addition, there are grants to compensate for competitive disadvantages caused by disabilities. These include technical aids, mobility aids or relevant individual skills training.

Business people with disabilities

In order to support people with disabilities in becoming self-employed, there are subsidies to improve their financial situation and to secure their livelihoods.

Businesspeople with disabilities can be granted subsidies to found a self-employed business or to provide security for an already existing self-employed activity when a temporary disability-related situation is threatening their livelihood.

Further information on support for companies and people with disabilities can be found on the website of the Sozialministeriumservice and at www.arbeitundbehinderung.at.

Social enterprises

Social enterprises are establishments for the integration into employment of people with disabilities who, due to the severity of their disability, are not yet able to work (or to return to) the general labour market.

Social enterprises are managed as limited companies on the basis of commercial principles. Social enterprises only receive funding to compensate for the disadvantages which arise in competition with other companies as a result of employing people with disabilities. In this way, social enterprises are put on an equal footing with other companies. Like other companies, they have to offer products and services which are competitive on the free market. There are eight social enterprises in Austria with over 20 locations.

Employment Module

In the Employment Module, around 1700 jobs (full-time equivalents) are provided by social enterprises for people with disabilities. These people are at least paid the collective agreement wages, their social insurance contributions are paid in full, and they have a say in how the company is run just as all other workers do. In addition, comprehensive medical, social and psychological support is available to people with disabilities.

For these social enterprises to be financially viable, the people with disabilities employed there need to be able to provide a minimum level of economically usable performance. At the time they are hired, this has to be at least half the level of performance of a person without disabilities carrying out the same work.

The preparation for work module

In the preparation for work module, social enterprises provide training places for people with disabilities. In autumn 2015 a new main focus was established: a social enterprises apprenticeship. People with disabilities are not only offered a low-threshold opportunity to acquire skills, but also gain access to high-quality vocational training in the form of an apprenticeship. The plan is to gradually extend this measure so that by 2021 a total of around 130 apprenticeship places can be made available.

The goal of the training is that by passing an apprenticeship examination, the participants can be placed in jobs more easily and that they can be sustainably integrated into the general labour market.

Disabled persons’ representatives

The task of disabled persons’ representatives is to safeguard the financial, social, health-related and cultural interests of people with disabilities in coordination with the works council or staff representatives.

In every company which has at least five registered disabled employees, these workers have to elect a disabled persons’ representative, and – depending on the number of employees with disabilities – up to three deputies.

The tasks and rights of the disabled persons’ representatives

Disabled persons’ representatives have to:

  • ensure that employment law regulations for disabled employees are adhered to;
  • inform the works council, the owner of the company, and if necessary the labour inspectorate about any deficits and work towards the elimination of the deficits, and
  • make proposals on issues related to employment, initial and further training and medical rehabilitation measures, and to highlight the special needs of employees with disabilities.

The disabled persons’ representative is also entitled to play an advisory role in all meetings of the works council (staff representatives) and the works committee.

The works council (or the staff representatives in the civil service) is obliged to support the disabled persons’ representative in the fulfilment of their duties and to provide them with the necessary amount of information. Although the legal obligation is important, cooperation naturally only functions when both sides take it seriously.

In companies with larger structures there are – alongside the company disabled persons’ representative, and similarly to the works councils – also the levels of the central disabled persons’ representative and the group disabled persons representative.

last update: 1 January 2020