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Factsheet for measure AT-2020-19/954 Updated – measures in Austria

Special protection for COVID-19 risk groups at work

Besonderer Schutz von Risikogruppen

Country Austria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 06 May 2020 – 30 April 2023
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Occupational health and safety
Author Bernadette Allinger (Forba) and Eurofound
Measure added 09 July 2020 (updated 23 November 2023)

Background information

In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, employers have taken numerous measures to protect employees from infections. Depending on the activity, this includes, for example, the possibilities for home office, redesigning workplaces to maintain a safe distance, installed barriers such as Plexiglas walls or the use of personal protective equipment.

The third COVID-19 Law paved the way for defining specific "risk groups", to which further protective measures apply. Employed workers with a very high risk of developing a serious illness if becoming infected with the COVID-19 are entitled to work from their home office or to a change in working conditions (meaning that the working conditions must be designed in such a way that infection with COVID-19 is almost impossible, taking into account the way to work). Ultimately, if this is not possible, a paid temporary leave of absence can be obtained with full payment by the employer, who will be reimbursed in full by the social security system for the wage costs (including ancillary wage costs).

An expert group consisting of three representatives from the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Nursing and Consumer Protection, one representative from the Federal Ministry of Labor, Family and Youth, three representatives from the Medical Association and three representatives from the social security system held several meetings based on previous experience with COVID-19 sufferers in Austria's hospitals and the international scientific results identified the groups of people who could have a higher risk of developing a serious illness.

Content of measure

The COVID-19 risk group regulation lists the medical reasons (indications) for belonging to the COVID-19 risk group. Based on these indications, a doctor may issue a COVID-19 risk certificate.

The main medical indications are:

  1. advanced chronic lung diseases that require permanent, daily, dual medication;
  2. chronic heart diseases with end organ damage that require permanent therapy, such as ischemic heart diseases and heart failure;
  3. active cancer with oncological pharmacotherapy (chemotherapy, biologics) and / or radiation therapy within the past six months, and metastatic cancer even without ongoing therapy;
  4. diseases that need to be treated with immunosuppression;
  5. advanced chronic kidney disease;
  6. chronic liver diseases with organ remodeling and decompensated liver cirrhosis from Childs stage B;
  7. pronounced obesity from obesity grade III with a BMI >= 40;
  8. diabetes mellitus;
  9. arterial hypertension with existing end organ damage, especially chronic heart or kidney failure, or uncontrollable blood pressure adjustment.

These main medical indications are further divided and described in detail in the regulation. In addition, other, similarly serious diseases with functional or physical limitations can provide special protection through a COVID-19 risk certificate.

Most members of the risk group were identified through their medication via their health insurance. They received letters by their social security institution after the legal provisions came into force in May. Furthermore, an individual risk analysis can be obtained by a physician (e.g. for patients with a cancer therapy who do not take any "prescribed medication" because they receive their treatment in the hospital or dialysis patients). The doctor carries out the risk assessment together with the patient based on the recommendations for individual risk analysis for a severe course of the disease. If there is a serious underlying illness that meets these recommendations, a COVID-19 risk certificate is issued.

Employers and those affected must jointly consider whether special protective measures are possible in the workplace. If this is not possible, home office can be used. If this is not possible either, workers belonging to the risk group are entitled to paid leave from work.


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

28 December 2022

The measure was extended first until the end of December 2022 and then until the end of April 2023. It will not be further extended any more.

27 May 2022

The special protection for COVID-19 risk groups at work has been extended twice, first until the end of May 2022 and then until the end of June 2022.

22 November 2021

On 22 November, another lockdown was implemented in Austria, due to very high COVID-19 infection rates. On the same day, the special protection for COVID-19 risk groups at work was re-instated, after it had expired in June - to apply until 31 March 2022. However, the requirements for being issued a risk certificate have somewhat changed:

  • All COVID-19 risk certificates that were issued before 3 December 2021 lose their validity from 15 December 2021 onwards and must be renewed.
  • The issuance of a COVID-19 risk certificate is only permitted from 3 December 2021 in the following two cases: (a) despite three vaccinations according to the vaccination schedule for immuno-suppressed persons, the person concerned has still medical reasons that suggest a severe course of COVID-19, or (b) the person concerned cannot be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 for medical reasons.
01 August 2021

After the special protection for COVID-19 risk groups at work had expired with 30 June 2022, it remained suspended for the month of July. By 1 August 2022, the regulation on the exemption of high-risk groups was reinstated again, with the employer costs being reimbursed by the state. The regulation is limited until the end of October but may be extended if necessary.

Translated with (free version)

08 June 2021

At the end of June, the regulation on the special protection of COVID-19 risk groups will expire and not be further extended, as announced by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health. The decision was taken in view of declining infection rates and simultaneously rising vaccination rates.

21 May 2021

On 21 May, the regulation was extended to 30 June 2021.

26 March 2021

The regulation was once more extended to 31 May 2021.

28 December 2020

Just a few days before its expiration, the regulation for risk groups was extended via ordinance until 31 March 2021.

Use of measure

According to information from the Minister from 21 April 2020, around 90,000 workers are expected to belong to the risk group. No exact data are available and no information on how many have made use of a paid leave are available as of now.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
The COVID-19 risk group at the workplace
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Social insurance
National funds

Social partners

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

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted Consulted
Form Any other form of consultation, institutionalised (as stable working groups or committees) or informal Any other form of consultation, institutionalised (as stable working groups or committees) or informal

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

  • Social partners jointly
  • Main level of involvement: Unknown


The expert group which elaborated the definition of risk groups consisted of representatives of the relevant ministries, of doctors and representatives of the umbrella association of social security institutions. The latter board consists of social partner representatives so it can be assumed that they were included in the expert group meetings.

Views and reactions

Organised labour has demanded that caring relatives should also be covered by the protective regulations concerning members of risk groups so that they can minimise the risk towards the persons to be cared for. However, this was not taken up in the regulation.



Eurofound (2020), Special protection for COVID-19 risk groups at work, measure AT-2020-19/954 (measures in Austria), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


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