Austria: No unemployment benefit without vaccination

AIn view of the vaccination fatigue in the population and the increasing number of infections, those who do not want to vaccinate in Austria must expect sanctions. Support for unemployed people can be withdrawn if they reject an application and an offer because of a required coronavirus vaccination.

Michaela Seiser

Business correspondent for Austria and Hungary based in Vienna.

From the point of view of the Ministry of Labor in the coalition government of the ÖVP and the Greens, it is reasonable that employers will require applicants to be vaccinated. If a person registered with the State Employment Service (AMS) refuses to apply for an assigned reasonable position or to accept a suitable position due to the vaccination, sanctions may follow.

The ministry emphasized that this legal situation applies regardless of the pandemic: Unemployment benefits can always be blocked if those affected refuse to accept a reasonable job. This also applies if their behavior is aimed at preventing a company from hiring them. In the pandemic, potential employers can “permissibly” and under the law decide whether coronavirus vaccination is necessary to hire a person.

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The rule should be taken into account in professions in which it can be assumed that the employees are vaccinated and the employer therefore requires this as a prerequisite for employment. “Professions with many contacts”, such as childcare, customer contacts or body-hugging service providers, were named as an example.

The question of announcing the vaccination status at the workplace has been in the room for a long time. Employment law experts see a great deal of leeway for companies.

Labor market is recovering from the crisis

Less than two thirds of the total population have been vaccinated twice and thus fully immunized. As in Germany, that is comparatively little. The spread can only be kept in check if more than four fifths of the population are immunized.

In Austria, the labor market is recovering faster than expected from the economic turmoil in the wake of the pandemic. The labor market has largely recovered over the summer. Unemployment is only around 7,000 people above the pre-crisis level of 2019 and already on the long-term average. The registrations for short-time work are well below the original expectations. In addition, the number of vacancies is at a record level. There are currently around 114,000 vacancies, with apprenticeships even more than 123,000. In July Austria had an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent and was thus in the middle of the EU.

Reasonability provisions for the unemployed are repeatedly criticized in Austria. By the end of the year, the Minister of Labor is aiming for a reform dialogue on these, additional income opportunities and the level of support. The so-called net replacement rate as net income in unemployment compared to last income from work is initially 55 percent, well below the OECD average of 64 percent. However, it falls only slightly to 51 percent – an amount that will still be paid out after five years and is almost double the OECD average of 27 percent. Germany, too, starts out more generously than Austria with a 60 percent net replacement rate, but long-term unemployed people have to get by with 22 percent.

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