Under Section 7 of the Employment Act, employees cannot, while employed and without their employer's consent, operate a commercial business or conclude commercial transactions in their employer's line of business. In a recent case, the Supreme Court had to decide whether the statutory prohibition also covers such competitive actions by employees through intermediaries or whether only the employees themselves have the standing to be sued by their employer.
The Supreme Court recently ruled for the first time on the issue of whether GPS tracking without an employee's consent warrants compensation for immaterial damage. Employers that use GPS tracking systems or similar control measures to monitor their staff should ensure that they agree the system's introduction with the works council or have each affected employee expressly consent to such a measure if no works council has been elected.
The Supreme Court recently clarified the legal implications of one particular scenario of dismissal challenges: if a works council expressly objects to an employee's dismissal (as opposed to expressly consents or fails to make a statement), the right to challenge the dismissal rests with the works council, but only if the employee, within one week of such objection, requests the works council to act accordingly and file a lawsuit.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused employers to use various methods to support employees and maintain business performance. Old and new legal remedies provide for continued payment of salaries (and in some cases also corresponding grants to employers) if performance of work is impossible. This article outlines the routes that employers and employees can take where normal working is impossible, such as sick leave and care leave to look after sick children.
Austria pioneered short-time work schemes. Introduced in 1949 and overhauled in 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis, the Austrian short-time work scheme has recently been further adapted to the particular needs of the COVID-19 crisis. This article examines who is eligible for the short-time work scheme and what subsidies are available.
Following amendments to the Working Time Act, it was unclear whether the new statutory regime regarding working time overrides collective bargaining agreements that have not been adapted to the new maximum work hours and provide for a daily maximum of 10 working hours for flexitime. In the first decision on this issue, which will have far-reaching consequences, the Supreme Court has clarified all relevant questions regarding the collective bargaining agreement for metal workers.
From 1 January 2020, bike couriers' employment relationships will be governed by a newly enacted collective bargaining agreement. Bike couriers in Austria now enjoy rights and benefits which are similar to employees in other sectors. While this is good news for bike couriers, it remains to be seen whether customers will have to pay the bill because of increased prices for courier services.
The Supreme Court recently confirmed an appellate court's decision and ruled that a school teacher who had moonlighted as a brothel manager had been eligible for termination because this sort of behaviour could be considered a breach of trust and damaging to the school's reputation. The case was eventually decided in view of the perceived criminality of sex workers and their employers among the general public. However, this perception arguably depends on who is asked.
Parliament recently passed a new law that grants fathers a legal entitlement to one month off work following the birth of their child. Dubbed the 'daddy month' by the media, this entitlement seeks to fill a gap that puts fathers at a disadvantage when it comes to childcare immediately following the birth of their child.
An employee recently sued for damages and compensation for gender discrimination when his job application was rejected because he had long hair. Originally unsuccessful, when the employee learned that the defendant's employee handbook contained rules on employees' outer appearance, he sued again and succeeded, as the Supreme Court found that the employee handbook was prima facie evidence of gender discrimination.
The European Court of Justice advocate general recently confirmed that the Austrian regulation which sets out that Good Friday is a paid public holiday only for members of four specific churches is discriminatory. Further, the advocate general concluded that each affected employee could claim holiday pay for past periods, unless such claims were already time barred, in which case claims could be brought against the Austrian state.
It is widely understood that the Austrian concept of 'social partnership' (ie, the system for cooperation between the two sides of industry) has largely contributed to peaceful industrial relations. The social partnership recently agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement for the metal industry. However, negotiations in several other trades and industries have followed, and in a less constructive atmosphere, further strikes may be forthcoming.
Under Austrian law, Good Friday is a paid public holiday only for members of four churches. An employee who belonged to none of these churches took issue with this and sued his employer. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which requested a preliminary ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In his recently issued opinion, the ECJ advocate general delivered what will likely also constitute the court's position on the matter.
Parliament recently passed a new law that brings sweeping changes to the Working Time Act and will come into effect on 1 September 2018. The law – which was heavily debated in the media and caused much controversy among the 'social partnership' (the Austrian system for cooperation between the two sides of industry) – sets the stage for more flexibility in a changing work environment.
Determining whether an individual is an employee or self-employed can be risky for both the contractor and engager. Often, no one knows exactly how to qualify an individual until the national insurer claims arrears in social security payments in the wake of an audit. The parties involved hardly ever have legal certainty in advance. The Social Security Determination Act aims to change that.
Under Austrian law, a recommendation letter must be truthful and cannot contain language that would aggravate the professional advancement of the employee. When truthfulness would result in less than lavish praise, employers must resort to a short-form recommendation letter, devoid of any information beyond the type of work performed and the duration of employment. This alternative, although accurate in its lack of praise, can aggravate an employee's career prospects.
In its final session before the general election, Parliament passed a bill which serves as a first step in harmonising the different legal regimes covering blue-collar and white-collar employees. However, not everyone is happy with this half-hearted harmonisation project – most notably, employer organisations – as they believe that the extended notice period for blue-collar workers will cost employers dearly.
As of May 1 2018 smoking in restaurants and bars will be prohibited. The restrictions on smoking in the workplace will also be tightened as of this date. However, the new provisions still afford some leeway to employers in that they can organise smoking breakrooms. As a consequence, the workplace may be more smoker friendly than pubs – who would have imagined that.
New legislation recently came into effect that aims to ease the process of reintegration into the workplace for employees who have been on extended sick leave and who would benefit from a reduced workload in order to aid rehabilitation and reconnect with the workplace. Although it is a well-meant initiative to curb the increase in long-term sickness, the legal framework reveals some major flaws.
Two recent amendments to the Labour Relations Act benefit the legal status of works councils and are geared towards increasing older employees' job prospects. In particular, the term of office for members of a works council has been extended from four to five years. Works council members' entitlement to educational leave has also been extended. Further, the special treatment of employees who start employment at age 50 or older has been abolished.