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Factsheet for measure AT-2020-12/545 Updated – measures in Austria

Special subsidised care time for working parents and carers

Sonderbetreuungszeit

Country Austria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 16 March 2020 – 30 June 2022
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Income protection beyond short-time work
– Support for parents and carers (financial or in kind)
Author Bernadette Allinger (Forba) and Eurofound
Measure added 13 April 2020 (updated 06 June 2022)
Related ERM support instrument

Background information

Due to the partial closure of school and kindergartens (with emergency service for those children who cannot be otherwise cared for, i.e. whose parents cannot work in home office), a special care time of up to three weeks for working parents with children up to the age of 14 and children with disabilities (no age limit) was established. In a later step, this was extended to workers with care needs for older people and can now be taken day wise. The employer's consent is needed.

The legal basis was an amendment to the employment law act § 18b Abs. 1 Arbeitsvertragsrechts-Anpassungsgesetz (AVRAG).

Content of measure

The employer's consent to the special care time is needed. The costs for the leave are shared between the state (which pays one third) and the employer (two thirds). Eligibility ends with a monthly wage of €5,370 (upper threshold).

The special care period is available for all those employees whose work is not necessary for the maintenance of the business and who do not have other childcare opportunities (schools and kindergartens remain open only for children of those parents whose work is necessary for the maintenance of the business).

The special care time is not to be offset against regular holiday entitlements or claims for time off or 'flexitime' credits. It is regarded as a 'normal' period of employment, and therefore counts towards employees' entitlements dependent on length of service. The legal base is an adaptation of the Employment Law Amendment Act (AVRAG, §18b/1).

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

17 March 2022

Phase 6 of the measure, which commenced on 1 January 2022, is extended until the end of the school year (8 July 2022) due to the Omicron-variant, as announced by the labour minister.

01 January 2022

In the face of the expected fifth infection wave due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, an extension of the special care time is prepared, which will apply from 1 January 2022 onwards (with applications being made possible from 13 February 2022 on).

22 September 2021

On 22 September 2021, the extension of special care time from (retroactively) 1 September to 31 December 2021 in the amount of three weeks was decided in parliament (phase 5).

15 December 2020

In the directive on phase 4 of the special care time for parents, which runs from 1 November 2020 to 9 July 2021 (phase 1: 16 March to 31 May 2020, phase 2: 25 July to 30 September 2020, phase 3: 1 to 31 October 2020), the reimbursement of the wage costs in the amount of 100% is regulated also for those cases without a legal right, but where a voluntary agreement between employer and employee is made (i.e. employer's consent is needed). This applies to working parents who keep their children at home in times of distance learning and school/kindergarten closures, even though they register their children for so-called emergency childcare which is provided.

05 November 2020

On 5 November 2020, the measure was updated once again via a political initiative in parliament, after the government had finalised negotiations with the social partners: Retroactively from 1 November 2020, there is now a legal entitlement to this specialised subsidised care time if schools or kindergartens are closed by authorities (e.g. in case of infections, larger clusters). For these cases, the employer's consent is not needed and 100% of the costs are paid by the federal state. In addition, the duration of the measure was extended to four weeks, to be consumed (by choice) also in individual days or half days by the end of the school year 2020/21. This applies now also to parents with care duties when their children are sent into quarantine.

23 September 2020

On 23 September 2020, the National Council decided to extend the measure until the end of February 2021. Also, the employer will now get half of the wage costs reimbursed by the federal government, instead of one third, as in the previous regulation. The employer's consent is still needed. Even if one has already made use of this measure during the first weeks of the COVID-19 crisis (up until and including 24 July 2020), the three weeks may be taken again.

09 July 2020

On 9 July 2020, the National Council agreed on an extension of the measure to 30 September 2020.

Use of measure

According to the answer to a parliamentary inquiry, 4,874 people were released from work, the majority of whom were women, namely 3,501, which corresponds to a share of 72%. Within the scope of this special leave, 5,490 children up to the age of 14 were looked after. In addition, 30 people with disabilities and 22 people in need of care were looked after.

Figures from May and June 2020

According to the Federal Accounting Agency, relating to figures from May, only 10% of the recipients availed of the maximum amount of three weeks of childcare time. Until May 25, only four applications were rejected. Up until then, €365,257.61 had been paid out in funding amounts. Up to €2.5 million were budgeted. Earlier media reports from 23 June 2020 reported that according to ministry information, almost 9,500 families had made use of the measure, but in light of the most recent update, this seems much overrated.

Figures from August 2020

According to information provided by the Federal Chancellery in late August 2020, around 30,000 children have benefited from the special care period and more than 25,000 employees have taken advantage of the special care period. Of these, 66% were women and 34% were men. 57% have taken advantage of the special care time of up to three weeks, 22% up to two weeks and 21% up to one week. 3,841 companies have so far submitted 4,385 applications for special care time. The most frequent applications were made in Vienna (968 companies), Upper Austria (848 companies) and Lower Austria (529 companies).

Figures from phase 4 (November 2020 to July 2021)

According to the federal ministry, around 6,200 employees made use of the special care time and 12,300 children were cared for during the special care period from November 2020 to July 9, 2021.

In March 2022, it was announced that since the onset of the measure (i.e. during the entire period), 38,206 people have taken advantage of the special subsidised care time, of which around 70% were women. Over 69,000 people (mostly children) have been cared for and €19.7 million were paid by the federal state to employers.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Parents in employment
Does not apply to businesses Older citizens
Parents
Disabled

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Social partners jointly
Company / Companies
Companies
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted Consulted
Form Direct consultation outside a formal body Direct consultation outside a formal body

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Social partners jointly
  • Main level of involvement: Peak or cross-sectoral level

Involvement

The social partners were consulted informally, but the labour side claims its demands have not been considered.

Views and reactions

Labour side is not content with the measure; they would have preferred a legal right to the special care time and full cost compensation for the employer.

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Special subsidised care time for working parents and carers, measure AT-2020-12/545 (measures in Austria), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/AT-2020-12_545.html

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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.