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Database of national-level policy measures

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

Factsheet for measure AT-2021-14/1742 – measures in Austria

Home office regulation

Gesetzliche Rahmenbedingungen für Home-Office

Country Austria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 01 April 2021 – 31 December 2023
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Teleworking arrangements, remote working
Author Bernadette Allinger (Forba) and Eurofound
Measure added 27 January 2021 (updated 11 November 2021)

Background information

Home office work was not very wide-spread in Austria before the onset of the pandemic. With the onset of COVID-19, this changed. According to the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), around four out of ten employees in Austria have been doing mobile work (on and off) since then. The vast majority of these employees have worked in their home offices. Home office work was first recommended by the federal government in spring 2020, amid the first lock-down in the country ( see case 590 in the COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch database ).

With the prolongation of the health crisis, it has become clear that home office work will remain part of employees' working lives and many businesses will rely on also in the future, when the crisis is over. Due to the lack of specific legislation, the social partners already started to negotiate on a home office package in September 2020. Tripartite meetings with the government were held in September and December 2020 and in January, an agreement was found. Legislation came into effect on 1 April 2021.

Content of measure

The legislation put forward is colloquially called a 'home office' law in Austria, but it is not a stand-alone law, but rather a package of several measures. Existing legislation regarding - among other areas - labour law, tax law, income law, or social security law was amended with clauses on home office work.

The following provisions have been put into legislation:

  • Home office work is to be agreed upon between employer and employee (in writing), i.e. there is no unilateral obligation or right to do work from home, but home office is voluntary. Both sides (i.e. employer and employee) have the right to withdraw from a home office agreement in the future. The agreement can also be terminated in case of important reasons (e.g. change in family situation, living situation) with one month's notice. Works agreements on home office can be concluded (in companies with a works council), but this is not obligatory.
  • Workplace: According to the legislation, work in the home office occurs when people work in their home (including secondary residences or the apartment of a close relative or partner). Thus, mobile work in public places (like co-working spaces, cafes, parks) does not fall under the home office regulations.
  • Equipment and office supplies: The employer is obliged to provide the necessary digital work equipment, but employees in the home office can agree to use their own work equipment (i.e. their own laptop or private cell phone, internet connection). If they do so, they are entitled to an appropriate reimbursement of their expenses, e.g. in the form of a flat rate (either determined case-by-case or in a works agreement).
  • Tax regulations/flat rate payments: Such (flat rate) payments (mentioned above) by the employer are tax-free up to €300 per year (up to €3 per home office day, up to 100 home office days per year). If the lump sum is not exhausted by the employee, he/she can claim the difference up to this maximum of €300 as income-related expenses. In addition, the employee can tax-deduct the costs for the purchase of ergonomic office furniture up to an amount of €300 per year (also in effect retrospectively for 2020).
  • Damage to work equipment: The provisions of the Employee Liability Act are also to be applied in the home office (including damage done by household members or pets). The extent of the compensation is reduced or omitted entirely.
  • Health and safety/ergonomics: The employer is obliged to ensure that the workplace at home is ergonomically designed and that questions relating to safety and health protection are answered and clarified. The social partners are currently working with the Labour Inspectorate to develop information materials.
  • Working time/working hours: All provisions of the Working Hours Act, the Rest Period Act and the applicable provisions of the Employee Protection Act also apply in the home office. That means that - unless otherwise agreed - the same working hours apply at home as they would in the office. Agreed overtime or overtime also applies.
  • Accident insurance protection: Employees are insured in the home office in the event of accidents. The accident insurance cover in the home office (which was originally limited until the end of March 2021, see case 590 in the COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch database ), has now become permanent. This also applies to accidents happening on the way from the home office to the workplace, to a doctor's appointment, or when bringing children to kindergarten/school and on the way back to the home office.

Use of measure

Survey reports show that around one quarter of employees have worked in their home offices on and off since the onset of the pandemic (see background info).

Contents

  • Telework

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Applies to all businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Social partners jointly
No special funding required

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 Consultation through tripartite or bipartite social dialogue bodies Consultation through tripartite or bipartite social dialogue bodies

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 (peak-level) negotiated the measures beforehand and in tripartite meetings with the government. Participants included the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), the Chamber of Labour (AK), the Federal Economic Chamber (WKO), the Federation of Austrian Industry (IV) and the Agricultural Chamber (LKO). Their involvement was not requested by institutional setting, but is common practice in Austria concerning topics of labour law. The social partners negotiated an agreement beforehand and participated in tripartite meetings with the government (labour ministry). The government installed the legislation (with amendments of the social partner agreement).

Views and reactions

In general, both sides of the social partners are content with the home office regulations, as they were taking part in the negotiations.

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2021), Home office regulation, measure AT-2021-14/1742 (measures in Austria), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/AT-2021-14_1742.html

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