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Austria: Legal Right to Paternity Leave Expanded

(Oct. 29, 2019) On September 1, 2019, an amendment to the Austrian Paternity Leave Act (VKG) entered into force. (VKG § 14, para. 19.) The amendment gives fathers of babies born after December 1, 2019, the legal right to take unpaid early paternity leave for one month immediately following the birth of the child (“daddy month”). The time off must be taken during the period that the mother is legally prohibited from working, meaning the eight weeks of compulsory maternity leave following the birth, or 12 weeks for a C-section, birth of multiples, or premature birth. This right is available only to fathers who live in a joint household with the child. The right to early paternity leave is in addition to the general right to paternity leave. However, unlike general paternity leave, it allows both parents to jointly care for the child. (§ 1a, paras. 1, 2.)

Notification Requirements

Fathers-to-be must notify their employer that they are planning to take one month off at least three months before the expected due date (early announcement). The employer must be informed of the birth without undue delay. The actual start date for the early month of paternity leave must be announced, at the latest, within a week following the birth. The earliest start date is the day following the birth. If the baby is born prematurely and no early announcement can be made, the employer must be informed of the birth and of the father’s intention to take one month off without undue delay. (§ 1a, paras. 3, 4.)

Protection Against Dismissal

A father who takes early paternity leave enjoys protection against dismissal from the time he provides the employer with notice of his intention to take leave until four weeks after he returns to work. The earliest the protection against dismissal starts is four months before the expected due date. (§ 1a, para. 6.)

Compensation

During their daddy month, fathers may apply for compensation for a maximum of 31 days on the basis of the Family Time Bonus Act. The compensation amounts to €22.60 (about US$24.96) per day, for a maximum compensation of €700 (about US$773). (Family Time Bonus Act § 3, paras. 1, 2.)

Background on Early Paternity Leave

The option to take an early month of paternity leave had been included in the Family Time Bonus Act since July 1, 2017. However, this right was not legally enforceable, and fathers had to rely on the good will of their employer if they wanted to take advantage of this option. Only public sector workers, along with some private sector workers on the basis of collective bargaining agreements, were provided with an enforceable right as an exception.

General Paternity Leave

The general unpaid right to paternity leave may start no earlier than the day after the mandatory maternity leave has ended, meaning eight or 12 weeks after the birth, respectively. The father must live in a joint household with the child. The general paternity leave must be taken before the child turns two years old and be of a minimum duration of two months. In general, it cannot be taken at the same time as the mother takes maternity leave. (VKG § 2, paras. 1, 2, 3, 4.) The right to general paternity leave also applies to adopted and foster children under two years of age. (§ 5.)

A father who takes general paternity leave may apply for income-based compensation on the basis of the Child Care Allowance Act. He will receive paternity allowance amounting to 80% of his net income in the previous six months, for a maximum of 365 days. The payment is capped at €66 (about US$73) per calendar day (€2,000 per month (about US$2,210)). (Child Care Allowance Act § 24a, para. 1, no. 4 & para. 2; § 24b, para. 1.)