Frequently asked questions
Here, the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection provides you with answers to frequently asked questions on various themes. These FAQs are a summary of questions which we are often asked, and provide an initial overview.
- Labour Law
- Means-tested minimum income
- People with disabilities
- Nursing care and pensions
- Advice Centres
How much additional earnings are permitted during parental leave?
Mothers and fathers can work in so-called marginal part-time employment during parental leave. In this category of employment, payment per calendar month may not exceed the marginal earnings threshold (2009: €357.74, 2010: €366.33; 2011: €374.02).
In addition, there is the possibility to agree with your employer to change your employment relationship to one over the marginal earnings threshold but which is only for a maximum of 13 weeks per calendar year (e.g. standing in for someone else during their holiday or illness).
With the agreement of the employer providing the job from which you are taking parental, another job over the marginal earnings threshold for a maximum of 13 weeks per calendar year can also be arranged with another company.
Please note the upper limit for additional earnings while claiming child care benefit, and that responsibility for this issue lies with the Federal Ministry of Families and Youth.
I have chosen the 30+6 month variation of child care benefit. Can I take parental leave for the entire period?
No, the period of parental leave covered by statutory protection from redundancy and dismissal lasts up to the child’s second birthday at the most. If you want to take leave for longer, a written agreement with the employer is absolutely necessary.
This kind of leave is not subject to the provisions of the Maternity Protection Act (MSchG) and the Paternal Leave Act (VKG). Protection from dismissal is only given when the employer explicitly waives its rights in this regard in the agreement.
In addition, it is possible to reduce working hours as part of the part-time work for parents scheme to such an extent that you earn less than the limit on additional earnings for child care benefit.
Which effects does handing in my notice have on my rights to severance pay?
If you give notice, your entitlement to ‘old’ severance pay is lost. However, if you agree upon the termination of the employment contract with your employer, your entitlement to severance pay is not lost. It is therefore recommended to negotiate this kind of termination of employment instead of handing in your notice.
If you have a right to severance pay according to the Act on Pension Provision for Company Employees and the Self-Employed (BMSVG – new severance pay), entitlement to severance pay is not lost if you give notice. However, a right to have it paid out is only present when you are granted access to the severance pay after terminating a subsequent employment relationship.
For general information, please see our contents on the means-tested minimum income.
Can foreign citizens also claim the minimum income?
Only persons who have the same rights as Austrians according to EU law are legally entitled to claim minimum income.
This means that asylum seekers do not have a right to means-tested minimum income.
The introduction of the means-tested minimum income has not made access to social assistance easier for any group of foreign citizens.
EEA citizens only have unrestricted access to the minimum income if they are in Austria as employees or have lived for longer than five years in Austria.
If EU citizens do not come to Austria to work, they must have sufficient funds to live on. If they do not, they may be threatened with deportation. Claming the minimum income is principally harmful to the right of residence of these persons.
Citizens of third countries (e.g. Turkey and Serbia) are only entitled to minimum income if they have lived in Austria legally for more than five years. Here again, employment plays a key role.
It is also important to know that among all recipients of social assistance, the number of migrants is low in relation to their proportion of the population.
Are housing costs also covered by means-tested minimum income?
Housing costs include the regular payments for rent, general service charges and taxes which are required to ensure a reasonable living situation.
Part of the flat rate amount of minimum income is intended to cover housing costs.
However, as housing costs in some regions can be considerably higher than can be covered by the 25 percent housing element of minimum income, certain benefits based on private law (e.g. housing benefit) will continue to be paid as previously. The housing element of 25% is thus a reference value for the granting of additional housing benefit by the provinces.
What is the difference between means-tested minimum income and the idea of a basic income?
The means-tested minimum income is based on the principle of subsidiarity. This means that it only comes into effect when one’s own needs cannot be covered by other benefits which take priority. It thus only benefits persons who do not have appropriate means of their own and who cannot cover their needs and those of their dependants sufficiently via entitlements vis-à-vis third parties (e.g. social insurance-based benefits, maintenance etc.). A willingness to work (if the person is capable of work) is also a condition for its receipt.
Basic income models are not orientated towards the principle of subsidiarity. They envision general benefits for everyone regardless of their respective needs and their willingness to take on work.
What happens when a person who is capable of work does not want to work?
Means-tested minimum income payments can be reduced if the person is not willing to take on reasonable work in spite of a written caution. This is, however, only carried out in stages and up to a maximum of 50%. A further reduction or stopping the benefit completely is only permissible in exceptional cases. The granting of payments to dependent family members in the same household should not be limited in any way by these sanctions.
For general information, please see our contents on people with disabilities.
Do I automatically gain increased protection against dismissal with a disability pass?
No. A disability pass is not the same as an official decision stating that you belong to those disabled persons with beneficiary status.
Can I park in short-stay parking zones and in parking spaces reserved for the disabled with the disability pass of the Sozialministeriumservice (previously the Bundessozialamt)?
No, to do this you need a parking permit issued according to Section 29b of the Road Traffic Act. Obtaining a parking permit is conditional on having a disability pass with an additional entry stating that you cannot be reasonably expected to use public transport.
Parking permits have to be applied for from the Sozialministeriumservice (previously the Bundessozialamt).
Parking permits which were issued by the Magistrat or the Bezirkshauptmannschaft before 1 January 2001 have no longer been valid since 31 December 2015. Permits issued after this date continue to be valid.
I have a disability or a chronic illness and am looking for work. Can I get support in finding a suitable job?
The first point of contact is the umbrella organisation Berufliche Integration - Austria. This is the national representative body of organisations which provide services in the field of vocational orientation and the integration of young people with a need for special educational support, as well as people with disabilities.
More information: http://www.dabei-austria.at
Due to a disability or health-related limitation, I need to make some adaptations to my home or get a therapeutic aid which is not paid for by the health insurance funds. Are there any state grants for these things?You can apply for the following support:
- Financial support from housing subsidies (apply to your regional Bezirkshauptmannschaft)
- The aid for the disabled programmes of your province (Behindertenhilfe). Apply to the relevant Bezirkshauptmannschaft.
My child has a disability / chronic illness. Which options for state support are there in such a case?You can apply for the following support:
- Mobile early support (information from the disabled aid programmes [Behindertenhilfe] of the respective province)
- Long-term care benefit (apply to the office responsible for long-term care benefit of the respective province or to your pension insurance institution)
- Increased family allowance (apply at your local tax office)
- Reimbursement of therapy costs (information from your health insurance fund and the disabled aid programme of your province)
- Additional support/care (information from the disabled aid programme of your province)
- Clearing (a programme to aid the transition of young people from school to training and work)
- Vocational training assistance (information from the local branch of the Federal Social Welfare Office) School travel costs benefit
- Reimbursement of travel costs for therapy
- Reimbursement of the cost of therapeutic aids
- Grants for disability-related building conversions.
For general information, please see our contents on nursing care and support.
What can I do when a need for care arises?
When a person starts to need care this often poses a major challenge for their families. As providing good care for those in need of it is of great importance to the state, there are also many different benefits available. Due to these different possibilities and as care is divided up between the federal government and the provinces, it is often not so easy to find the right places to apply the first time around.
As soon as a need for care arises, we recommend that you obtain more detailed information as soon as possible. There are various ways of doing so, such as the BürgerInnenservice (Citizens’ Service) of the Ministry of Social Affairs on 0800/20 16 22.
The Pflegetelefon (care hotline) advises you free of charge and confidentially on all areas and support payments related to care, and can pass you on to the office you require, or help you to make applications.
As the provinces are responsible for the provision of social services (such as mobile services like home helps and meals on wheels, intermediate care facilities such as day centres, or inpatient services like residential and nursing homes), you should contact the offices of your provincial government (or the Fonds Soziales Wien in Vienna) and let them advise you.
Working family members of persons in need of care can, under certain circumstances, be offered temporary paid care leave, thus avoiding a dual burden and providing them with time to organise ways to deal with the new situation.
You can find information on this on the website of the Ministry of Social Affairs or that of the Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer). Since 2014, working family members of persons in need of care also have the opportunity to take so-called care leave or change to (subsidised) part-time work in order to avoid carrying out two full-time jobs.
What can I do if my state of health worsens and my need for care increases?
If you do not agree with the assessment, you can take legal action against the decision at the relevant Labour and Social Court (Arbeits- und Sozialgericht) within three months of its delivery. Taking legal action often sounds worrying, but you need not be afraid of incurring any costs, as the latter are assumed by the federal government. The only exception is if you engage a solicitor (lawyer) to represent you – then you have to pay his or her costs.
During the court proceedings you will already receive long-term care benefit at the stage given in the decision. In the court proceedings a new assessment is made and a new report on your need for care is drawn up. A new decision on your long-term care benefit stage is made on this basis of this report. A downgrading of your stage is, however, not permitted. This means that if the court comes to the conclusion that a lower stage would be due than that given in the decision, you will still receive the long-term care benefit awarded in the initial decision.
What can I do if my state of health worsens and my need for care increases?
If your state of health has worsened since the last assessment, you can apply for an increase at the relevant office or make a new application for the award of long-term care benefit. As in the case of the first decision, you will then be notified and an assessment carried out.
If less than a year has passed since the last legal decision, you will have to provide credible evidence that your state of health has worsened considerably. To do so, please enclose a confirmation from your family doctor, a medical report or any hospital reports with your new application.
What are the advantages of the pension account introduced on 1 January 2014?
As part of the 2012 Stability Act, the Lower House of the Austrian Parliament adopted initial credit amounts for pension accounts to replace parallel calculations.
The main advantages are the end of the previous three legal situations (as of 2017) and the transparent and easily comprehensible influence of additional contribution periods from 1.1.2014 on the amount of pensions.
For all those born on or after 1.1.1955, an initial amount stemming from their insurance years until the end of 2013 will be credited to their new pension account. In this way, their insurance years until 2013 will have been fully taken into account, and from 1 January 2014 there will only be the new pension account system.
The initial credit amount is the result of:
- Percentage increments: 1.78% per year
- Cumulative calculation: the best 28 years
- Evaluation of periods bringing up children: approx. €1500 per month
Standard reductions for early retirement depending on the type of pension:
- Corridor pension 5.1 %
- Long contributory periods and invalidity pensions 4.2 %
- Pensions for those in strenuous work 1.8 %
- Special arrangements for women who fulfil the conditions for retirement on 31.12.2013 and voluntarily postpone claiming a pension.
The incentive for taking a pension later can be highlighted very well with this system. Every year yields around 7% (long contributory period, invalidity pension) or 8 % (corridor pension) more pension.
The further development of account statements will make it possible to calculate the pension amount in advance for several effective dates: e.g. three years before the earliest possible retirement date, such as the ages of 62, 63, 64 and 65.
I commute every day on a local railway route and cannot use practically any of the trains – until when do trains have to be accessible?
On 1 January 2016 the transition period for the Federal Disability Equality Act in the field of transport expired. From this time onwards, barriers in public transport can be considered discrimination and can lead to the award of damages. However, this only the case when the creation of accessibility does not involve unreasonable costs or effort. The latter is examined during a court case. Important criteria here are the costs and effort involved in creating accessibility, and the ability of the company involved to cope with the financial burden.
According to the provisions on disability equality, Austrian Railways have drawn up a so-called staged plan which contains the staged realisation of accessibility at stations and on trains. However, train carriages have a useful life of between 30 and 40 years, so the changeover to barrier-free trains will take some time.
What are conciliation proceedings?
Before a court case, it is obligatory that conciliation proceedings take place. This informal procedure serves to resolve disputes and takes place at one of the nine provincial offices of the Sozialministeriumservice. Conciliation talks are held with all those involved under the leadership of trained conciliators. The conciliators contribute their specialist knowledge in the field of disabilities and try to mediate between the parties in a neutral way and to create an ideal framework for the negotiations. In addition, in individual cases they can arrange for advice to be provided (e.g. on special subsidies from the Sozialministeriumservice or other institutions). As the experience of a decade shows, conciliation proceedings are used very successfully to reach agreements.
If there is no agreement, you receive confirmation of this from the Sozialministeriumservice. After that you can claim damages in court.
What is a reasonableness test?In court proceedings, it is examined whether the elimination of a barrier and thus the creation of accessibility can be reasonably expected. The idea here is to avoid financial hardship. Reasonableness has to be assessed in different ways depending on the case, as there are many factors involved. The following have to be particularly taken into account:
- The cost and effort involved in elimination
- The financial strength of the entity involved
- The receipt of public subsidies
- The time which has passed since 1 January 2006 – the day on which the Disability Equality Act came into effect
- The effects on other disabled persons (on customer frequency, for example).
I feel discriminated against by the way people with disabilities are depicted in the media. What can I do about it?
You can initiate a conciliation procedure at the Sozialministeriumservice. In addition, there are other possibilities, such as contacting the Press Council.
A working group at the Federal Chancellery is drawing up a draft recommendation on how people with disabilities are depicted in the media, which was to be presented to the public before the end of 2015. This recommendation will address all the media.
I have only just realised that there is a law on disability equality. Can I take legal action retrospectively, and what are the deadlines?
In disability equality legislation, the time period during which legal action can be taken varies. In the case of discrimination in working life – especially when terminating an employment relationship – the deadlines are sometimes very short, whereas legal action due to discrimination in everyday life can be taken within a period of three years in many cases.
We therefore recommend that you seek advice at a provincial office of the Sozialministeriumservice.