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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-2021-5/1741 – measures in Austria

General collective agreement Corona test

Generalkollektivvertrag Corona-Test

Country Austria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 25 January 2021 – 31 August 2021
Type Bipartite collective agreements
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Occupational health and safety
Author Bernadette Allinger (Forba) and Eurofound
Case created 27 January 2021 (updated 29 January 2021)

Background information

Due to stagnating numbers in Corona infections amid a lock-down and the first appearances of potentially more infectious virus mutants in Austria, stricter measures were agreed upon by the federal government.

On 25 January 2021, the 3rd COVID-19 Emergency Measures Ordinance came into effect, via which some important changes in several areas of public life were implemented (e.g. increasing the distance to be kept to people from other households from one to two meters or the obligation to wear more protective FFP-2 facial masks in certain circumstances like public transport or retail). Furthermore, weekly Corona tests for specific professional groups are to be provided via this ordinance. This includes - in addition to the previously mandatory tests in the health and social care sectors - employees in contact with customers (e.g. transport, retail); teachers and elementary pedagogues who have contact with children; warehouse logistics if the minimum distance cannot be kept; public services when contact to clients occurs; and professional sports (team and contact sports).

Those employees who have not been tested must instead wear an FFP-2 mask. In the health and care sector, both tests and FFP-2 masks are mandatory when contact to patients/clients occurs.

Content of measure

Following the implementation of the ordinance, the federal-level social partners negotiated a general general collective in order to provide the necessary framework conditions for Corona testing for the concerned professional groups.

The agreement was negotiated between the federal level social partners (the 'official' social partners Federal Economic Chamber WKO, Agricultural Chamber LKO, Austrian Trade Union Federation ÖGB and Chamber of Labour AK and in addition the Federation of Austrian Industry IV).

This is the first general collective agreement that has been concluded in Austria since 1978 (as the sectoral level is the dominating level in collective bargaining). The agreement applies to all companies and its employees which are organised and represented by the mandatory WKO and for which the WKO may conclude collective agreements (i.e. those companies represented by voluntary employer organisations which conclude collective agreements on their behalf - e.g. the Association of Austrian Banks - are not covered by this general collective agreement). However, an extension order is planned, which would expand the validity to those companies not covered by the WKO and for which no collective agreement applies (a very small percentage).

The general collective agreement came into effect on 25 January 2021 and regulates the following:

  • Regular Corona tests which are prescribed for certain professional groups (via the ordinance) must be carried out during working hours with continued payment of wages. If taking a test at the place of work is not possible, the time which it takes to take a test in public facilities (including travel time) is to be counted as working time.
  • Employees for who it is not compulsory to take a Corona test should take the test outside of working hours. If this is not possible, an exemption is possible (once a week).
  • Employees may not be disadvantaged or dismissed because of the participation in COVID-19 tests and in case of a a positive test.

In addition to these clauses on tests, the social partners agreed upon a mask-free time for those employees who are required to wear a mask during their work (due to legal regulations). After three hours, those employees may take off the mask for at least 10 minutes. This is not a mandatory break time, but the employee can change the work (e.g. no customer contact) or timing can be arranged so that this mask-free time falls within a regular break.

Use of measure

No estimates available.

Contents

  • Health and safety

Target groups

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

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Social partners jointly
Trade unions
Employers' organisations
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 Not applicable Not applicable

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

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

Involvement

Upon the government's ordinance on mandatory Corona tests for specific professional groups, the social partners jointly negotiated and agreed upon practical and operational measures that enable workers to be tested.

Views and reactions

Due to the fact that a mutual agreement was concluded, it can be assumed that both sides are supportive of the measure.

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2021), General collective agreement Corona test, case AT-2021-5/1741 (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.