National Council Adapts Labor Laws to EU Law (PK0171/02/28/2024)

Vienna (PK) – At today's meeting, the National Council decided to adapt various labor laws to a new EU directive on transparent and predictable working conditions. This includes, for example, accurate information on the service note and establishing the right to multiple placements. In addition, an amendment to the ASVG makes it easier for foreign workers to issue a photo for an electronic card in the future. Accordingly, from April, municipal offices can also act as photo registration points – on a voluntary basis.

In the short term, additional provisions were incorporated into the ASVG revision. On the one hand, it includes a new regulation of social security contribution surcharges to be paid by companies caught during unannounced work inspections. On the other hand, Health Minister Johannes Rauch's authorization to dispose of federally owned stocks of COVID-19 drugs will be extended until the end of May 2025. An amendment to the Family Burden Equalization Act relates to parental support for seriously ill children.

Obligation to provide service reference for all employment relationships

With the amendment of various labor laws such as the Employment Contracts Amendment Act, the Employees' Act and the Agricultural Labor Act, the basic obligation for employers to include the registered office of the company in the work paper, a brief description of the activity, the method of overtime pay and payment, the duration and conditions of the probationary period and the dismissal procedure has been standardized. Make a note of and hand over the service note immediately upon commencement of the employment relationship. This also applies to freelance contracts, temporary workers, domestic workers and domestic workers. There is a penalty for not handing over the service note. The right to multiple employment opportunities and provisions for necessary training and further education activities are also part of the legal package.

The joint amendment proposed by the coalition parties passed with the votes of the ÖVP and the Greens. Markus Koza (Greens) stressed that the EU directive strengthens workers' rights. In the future, employers will no longer be able to “pass on” training costs to employees. He also mentioned the enforceable right to service note and the right to multiple employment opportunities.

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According to ÖVP MP Tanja Graf, not much will change. Austria already has very transparent service records, he said. All you have to do is provide some additional information. What is new is the guaranteed right to multiple employment, which is consistent with core employment and not morally reprehensible. When setting the bans, attention was paid to SMEs, Graf emphasized, and he did not know of any companies that did not issue service notes. According to them, issuing new service cards to all four million employees would have been too bureaucratic.

The SPÖ sees the EU directive as being implemented only “half-heartedly”.

On the SPÖ side, Josef Mučić and Gabriel Heinisch-Hocek criticized the EU directive as being a year and a half late and being implemented “half-heartedly”. Muchic, for example, lamented that the new regulations only apply to new employment relationships. He avoids obstacles. Even Heinisch-Hosek sees only “micro improvements.” However, it is positive that written specifications are now provided; This is important for employees.

FPÖ and NEOS see more bureaucracy

FPÖ MP Peter Wurm spoke of a “bureaucratic monster without end”. According to him, this is an unnecessary law. Above all, Austria has a functional social partnership. Especially small companies with few employees “suffocate in bureaucracy”. Wurm does not see that the ÖVP and the Greens “always implement EU directives without conflict”.

Gerald Locker's (NEOS) review is similar. The law creates a bureaucracy that does nothing for the people, he complained. After all, in Austria you now have to provide service notes. In his opinion, if employers justify future layoffs and then give “operational reasons,” employees will have no added value. Locker also questioned the imposition of administrative fines for violations of civil law regulations.

Parental support for a seriously ill child

An amendment to the Family Burden Equalization Act was also negotiated with the legislative package and approved unanimously. The Family Burden Equalization Act requires financial hardship compensation because parents or designated parents are able to take leave — without pay — with a recently seriously ill child, even if they do not live in the same household with the child. The common family no longer applies. This was openly welcomed by the parliamentarians Jozsef Mučić (SPÖ), Norbert Sieber (ÖVP), Petrana Ribo (Greens) and Michael Bernhardt (NEOS).

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During the debate, Bernhard spoke in favor of funding most of the benefits currently funded by the Family Burden Equalization Fund (FLAF) through the budget in the future, thereby reducing non-wage labor costs.

Facility to register photo for e-card

The amendment to the ASVG, passed by the ÖVP-Greens-NEOS majority, aims to make it easier for non-Austrian citizens to provide a photo for an e-card. Unlike Austrians, foreigners currently have to go to the state police to register their photos, which sometimes means several hours of travel time. From April 1, mayors can also act as a photo registration point for Austrian and non-Austrian citizens, albeit on a voluntary basis. According to Bedrana Ribo (Greens) and Rebecca Kirchbaumer (ÖVP), 24-hour carers, seasonal workers and construction workers could particularly benefit from this.

Ribo and his party colleague Barbara Nestler pointed out that photoless e-cards will soon become obsolete. They say the proposed move will provide important relief as photo registration centers are currently “rare”. This would eliminate “unnecessary harassment” and reduce bureaucracy for employees who urgently need it, Neßler noted.

However, the FPÖ showed no understanding of the proposed relief. FPÖ MP Dagmar Belakowitsch strongly believes that matching the e-card with a photo is an important step to prevent misuse. It will now be “softened”. His parliamentary committee colleague Peter Wurm believes it is reasonable for victims to go to the state police headquarters. The FPÖ is concerned about immigration police controls, he stressed.

However, SPÖ MP Christian Tropitz questioned the need to include a photo on e-cards in general. He said that debuting under “Black and Blue” was an expensive “non-starter”. There is no evidence of widespread misuse of e-cards without photos. According to Trobits, societies are burdened with a task that is no longer needed. Additionally, there are costs associated with this for the insured.

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ÖVP MP Rebecca Kirchbaumer blamed the FPÖ, accusing the mayors of abusing their power and considering it a “strong piece”. He also emphasized that service to communities is not necessary. In principle, Kirchbaumer believes that adding photos to e-cards is fine.

New regulation of social security contribution surcharges

Based on an amendment proposed by the coalition parties, further provisions were quickly incorporated into the ASVG amendment. Accordingly, companies caught during unannounced work inspections may only pay the full premium surcharge for late enrollment of employees with Social Security if the inspection is performed under the responsibility of the responsible health insurance provider in the future. For example, if another body, such as the Financial Police, initiates the checks, only a partial payment of €400 is required for separate processing. The partial amount of €600 for trial allocation does not apply. MPs are reacting to the relevant decision of the Administrative Court.

At the same time, it is clear that in accordance with the applicable enforcement procedure of the Austrian Health Insurance Fund (ÖGK), the premium surcharge will only be charged if a reporting violation is detected as part of an “immediate violation”. If the company registers an employee late without verification – that is, only after starting work – the additional contribution is not yet due.

On the other hand, the amendment extends Health Minister Johannes Rauch's authorization to dispose of federally owned stocks of COVID-19 drugs until the end of May 2025.

While Betina Zopf (ÖVP) is happy that the current practice will continue with late registrations, Christian Drobits (SPÖ) spoke in favor of requiring a contribution surcharge for each late registration. (Continuation of National Council) gs

Note: Meetings of the National Council and Federal Council can also be followed via live stream and are available on video in the Parliamentary Media Library.

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