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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case AT-2020-12/628 Updated – measures in Austria

Protection of workers in retail, including change of working hours

Corona Schutzpaket für Beschäftigte im Handel

Country Austria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 20 March 2020 – 30 April 2020
Type Bipartite collective agreements
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Occupational health and safety
Author Bernadette Allinger (Forba) and Eurofound
Case created 15 April 2020 (updated 10 July 2020)

Background information

Ahead of the closure of schools and kindergartens, unions in Austria demanded changes to shop opening hours. They requested that opening hours should be limited to 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the duration of the school closings for retail shops, as the measures would put many of the 400,000 domestic retail employees in a bind and demanded that the opening times in the shops .

Initially, the employers organisation (WKÖ) had rejected the union's demand for a temporary and significant reduction in working hours. 'The trade is fundamentally against any legal shortening of the opening times' said WKÖ trade chairman Peter Buchmüller. The food trade in particular is an important infrastructure for maintaining the security of supply for the entire population and is 'well equipped'.

Due to the recent measures by the federal government, the shopping behavior of Austrians has changed. Social partners notice that customers shop less often, but buy more. The customer frequency decreases at a later hour.

Therefore, the commercial social partners have agreed to adjust the opening hours accordingly. In a joint protection package for employees and apprentices in the Austrian trade, we have agreed that the shops will be open from Monday, March 23, 2020, from 7:40 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Normal opening hours (i.e. like before) could be resumed in May again, after the legal regulation had expired.

On 23 March 2020, social partners agreed on a package of measures to protect retail employees.

Content of measure

The social partner agreement finally foresees that retail shops will be open until 7 pm.

Further protective measures include that

  • pregnant employees will be exempted from work;
  • employees belonging to the COVID-19 risk group shall - if possible - be working in areas without client contact;
  • a tax free treatment of Corona related supplements or rewards;

Social partners appeal to the Federal government to consider this.

Initiative of the social partners for uniform standards for the protection of employees in the workplace. To protect employees, social partners recommend that retailers implement the following measures as quickly as possible:

  • Plexiglass panes ("breath protection") and spacers at all checkouts and counters.
  • Gloves and hand disinfectants for all employees and apprentices (as soon as available again)
  • Regular disinfection of checkout workplaces, break and lounge rooms and the toilet facilities due to shorter cleaning intervals
  • Floor markings at all checkouts and counters to ensure the distance between customers and an orderly process in the store.
  • No scanning of customer cards by employees
  • Orderly access to all shops
  • When there is a particularly high number of customers at peak times, retailers should ensure that not too many customers are admitted at the same time.
  • And to provide increased information of customers.

Updates

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

09 July 2020

On 6 April 2020, a regulation came into force making the usage of face masks in supermarkets mandatory for both customers and staff. This was initiated by the government without social partner consultation. On 15 June, this obligation was lifted again.

Use of measure

Not applicable.

Contents

  • Basic working time
  • Bonuses
  • Health and safety
  • Work organisation
  • Working time flexibility

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Does not apply to workers Companies providing essential services
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Trade unions
Employers' organisations
Companies

Social partners

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

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative
Form Not applicable Not applicable

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

  • Social partners jointly
  • Main level of involvement: Sectoral or branch level

Involvement

The sectoral social partner groups (retail sections within the (mandatory) WKO and the ÖGB) negotiated this agreement.

Views and reactions

The (voluntary) employer organisation (Handelsverband) welcomed the innovations and recommended another protective measure: The association proposed to temporarily raise the limit for contactless payment transactions during the crisis. A temporary increase in the NFC limit without a PIN to, for example, €50 would significantly reduce the risk of infection both for the 110,000 employees in the food trade and for consumers. The employer organisation regards only the restriction of the opening times as being ambivalent with regard to the tense labour market, but understands if it relieves the existing staff of the supermarkets.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      G - Wholesale And Retail Trade; Repair Of Motor Vehicles And Motorcycles G47 Retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles
    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Sales workers
      Hospitality, retail and other services managers

Sources

  • 20 March 2020: Protection of workers in retail (orf.at)
  • 23 March 2020: Corona-Schutzpaket für Beschäftigte im Handel (www.wko.at)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Protection of workers in retail, including change of working hours, case AT-2020-12/628 (measures in Austria), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

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