Freedom of movement for workers
EU citizens are permitted to work in any EU Member State, that is, they may choose where to pursue their economic activities. This right derives from the freedom of movement for workers (Article 45 TFEU – Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, specified in detail in Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 and Directive 2014/54/EU). It is not permitted to discriminate against EU citizens based on their nationality with regard to employment, remuneration or other working conditions.
The freedom of movement for workers prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination. The prohibition of discrimination applies to Member States and to employers as well. The freedom of movement for workers also implicitly prohibits restrictions, i.e. measures that, while not discriminating per se based on citizenship, make it difficult or less attractive to exercise the right of freedom of movement.
To implement non-discriminatory access to another Member State’s labour market, the free movement of workers guarantees a comprehensive right to mobility. Information is provided below concerning the rights of workers from the EU. This information derives from various provisions of EU and Austrian law.
EU, EEA and Swiss citizens require only a valid travel document to enter Austria, no visa is necessary. More details can be obtained from the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
Right of residence
Generally, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens are permitted to stay in Austria for a maximum of three months. Workers from the EU are entitled to stay in their host country even longer than three months (more information). Within four months of entering the country, such employees are required to apply for a registration certificate, which is obtained from the settlement authority (municipal or district administration authority). After five years of continuous lawful residence in Austria, they may receive a certificate of permanent residence upon application.
Access to employment
Irrespective of his or her place of residence, every Union citizen has the right to pursue activity as an employed person within the territory of another Member State and under the same conditions as citizens of that Member State. Where employment positions require special language proficiency, the Member State can require proof of language skills even if it does not require such proof from its own citizens.
Information on seeking employment
Workers from EU and EEA Member States residing in Austria receive assistance from the Austrian Public Employment Service in seeking a job opening.
Those not residing in Austria can receive assistance for seeking employment through the European job mobility portal EURES.
You can find several links to job exchanges under help.gv.at
Information on the recognition of qualifications
There are several places to get advice and assistance on issues relating to qualifications obtained in another country. More information can be found at http://www.berufsanerkennung.at/en/ and on the Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs’ website.
Information about establishing an employment relationship
In Austria an employment contract can be stipulated in written or oral form. Whatever the case, the key items have to be put down in writing in a statement of terms and conditions of employment (Dienstzettel). Employment contracts can be concluded for a limited or indefinite period. Termination of the employment relationship by either party within the first month (probationary month), without notice period or reason, can be stipulated. Detailed information on the rights and obligations arising from an employment contract are found at help.gv.at and migration.gv.at. The Chamber of Labour additionally provides advice on issues related to employment law. The amount of minimum remuneration due an employee in Austria is in most cases based on the collective agreement. www.kollektivvertrag.at lists all current collective agreements. The Posting of Workers Platform provides assistance in identifying the applicable collective agreement.
Equal working conditions
Workers from the EU must not be discriminated against on grounds of citizenship with regard to employment and working conditions. This applies to conditions including: remuneration, period of employment, counting earlier employment periods in pay classification, reimbursing travel expenses, protection against employment termination, terms of employment termination, and reintegration into the workforce following unemployment. It is not permitted to discriminate against individuals because they assert their rights based on the freedom of movement for workers. If you as an employee in the EU feel discriminated against due to your nationality, you can consult the Chamber of Labour for advice.
Prohibitions also exist against discrimination on grounds of gender, age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion or belief. Additional information is provided here and in a booklet on equal opportunity published (in German) by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Assistance to individuals who feel they have been discriminated against is provided by the Equal Treatment Ombuds Office.
Participation in interest groups
Workers from the EU, like Austrian citizens, are entitled to membership in interest groups organised at company level and above, and to vote for and to stand for election to such groups. Legally mandatory as well as voluntary interest groups exist in Austria: the most important of these on the employee side are the Chamber of Labour (membership is mandatory for all employees in Austria) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (interest group with voluntary membership). The groups active for employers are: the Economic Chamber (mandatory membership) and the Federation of Austrian Industries (interest group with voluntary membership). Special chambers organised along occupational lines exist for certain professions (such as for physicians and lawyers).
In individual companies with at least five employees, the workers can establish a staff representation body. Employees are entitled to elect a works council to represent their economic, social, health and cultural interests and to safeguard employees’ rights to participate in company decisions. More details on interest group representation at company level can be obtained here as well as from the Trade Union and the Chamber of Labour.
Social and tax benefits
The prohibition of discrimination applies also to the conditions controlling access to social benefits such as scholarships and educational aid, benefits for families with three or more children, and the right to a court interpreter. The bodies responsible for administrating such benefits must observe the prohibition. If you suspect that, when granting a certain benefit, authorities place more stringent requirements upon workers from other EU countries than upon Austrian citizens, you can contact one of the counselling centres listed below.
The conditions and procedures applied in taxation are also required to be free of discrimination. The Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance is available to provide information related to Austrian tax laws.
Access to occupational schools and retraining centres
Workers from the EU, like Austrian workers, are entitled to attend occupational schools and retraining centres. Further information can be obtained from the Public Employment Service and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.
When providing access to housing, it is not permitted to discriminate against workers from the EU. More details can also be found at help.gv.at.
Family member rights
Family members of workers from the EU have certain rights that derive from the freedom of movement for workers: family members of a worker from the EU who is employed in another EU country are entitled to reside and work in that country. The worker’s children have to the right to a school education in that country.
The persons considered as family members are: spouses or registered partners, children and grandchildren as long as they are supported by the worker, and parents and grandparents who are supported by the worker. The category also includes an unmarried partner living in civil partnership with the worker as well as other family members, where the worker is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen. More details on this subject can be obtained at www.migration.gv.at.
Enforcing rights deriving from the freedom of movement for workers
Employees in Austria can enforce any individual claims held against their employer by bringing an action before the Labour and Social Court (Arbeits- und Sozialgericht). Other claims based on civil law have to be enforced through the civil courts. An appeal against an administrative authority’s decision has to be addressed to the competent administrative court.
Use the query of authorities (Behördenabfrage) at help.gv.at to locate the court or administrative court with local jurisdiction.
The institutions listed below provide advice and assistance on issues relating to the rights deriving from the freedom of movement for workers.
The locally competent Chamber of Labour provides advice and assistance on employment law issues.
The Equal Treatment Ombuds Office is responsible for providing advice and assistance to individuals who feel discriminated against on the grounds of ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or age.
The Public Employment Service assists job-seekers residing in Austria by providing counselling, information, training, financial assistance and job placement.
The European job mobility portal EURES assists individuals seeking employment who do not have legal residence in Austria.
The Your Europe portal provides advice and help to EU citizens and their families. The website gives a compact overview of the rights of Union citizens, with the option of contacting Your Europe Advice with questions.
If you find that a certain country’s legal provisions or administrative practices contradict EU regulations in a way that violates your rights, you can address a written complaint to the European Commission.