Dismissals in Austria

1. Dismissal of employees

1.1 Reasons for dismissal

Generally, employers in Austria are not required to justify ordinary dismissals (Kündigungen). Nevertheless, they must observe prescribed notice periods and termination dates.

If an establishment employs five or more employees, however, these employees enjoy “General Protection against Dismissals”: an employee may challenge a dismissal if it has adverse effects on the individual’s personal life. In these cases, the employer must justify the dismissal for reasons related to employee capabilities, conduct or operational requirements if challenged by the employee.

Certain “vulnerable” employees enjoy additional “Special Protection against Dismissal” and may only be dismissed for one of several specific reasons, often only with the prior consent of competent authorities. These include women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth, parents on parental leave, works council members and employees formally classified as disabled persons.

Discriminatory dismissals or dismissals due to “illegal reasons” can also be challenged by employees.

1.2 Form

Unless otherwise stipulated in a collective agreement or employment contract, dismissals do not require any particular form. However, giving notice in writing is recommended. If “Special Protection against Dismissal” applies, rules may differ.

1.3 Notice period

Although Austrian law does provide statutory minimum notice periods and dates, employers are free to designate their own notice regimes based on collective agreements and employment contracts. In case of conflicting regulations, however, employees will always benefit from the most favourable rule, pursuant to the “favourability principle” (Günstigkeitsprinzip).

Austrian employment law distinguishes between white-collar (Angestellte) and blue-collar workers (Arbeiter), providing separate notice models for each.

White-collar workers are entitled to receive at least six weeks notice and up to five months notice, always depending on the length of their employment relationship. These terms may be modified, although no notice period may exceed six months. In addition, white-collar workers benefit from statutory notice dates, ensuring that employment relationships may only end at the end of any given annual quarter. It is possible to agree contractually that a termination is possible on the 15th or last day of any given month.

If not otherwise stipulated by collective agreement, blue-collar workers are subject to a notice period of at least 14 days. In practice, however, collective agreements often guarantee more generous notice periods. 

From 1 January 2021, the notice periods and termination dates for white-collar workers will apply to blue-collar workers. In industries where seasonal businesses predominate, collective agreements may contain different provisions and set shorter notice periods. When concluding employment agreements with blue-collar workers, it is also possible to contractually agree on a termination on the 15th or last day of any given month.

1.4 Involvement of works council

If a works council exists at an establishment, it must be informed of any proposed dismissals at least one week in advance. Within this timeframe, the works council may object, explicitly approve or refrain from commenting on the dismissal. The termination is void if the employer fails to comply with this requirement, either by failing to notify the works council or by failing to wait for its response within that week.

1.5 Involvement of a union

No involvement.

1.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

Obligatory only for certain groups of employees (e.g. severely disabled persons, works council representatives, pregnant women, and employees on parental leave).

1.7 Collective redundancies

When collective dismissals (Massenkündigungen) are imminent, employers are required to notify the Austrian Employment Service 30 days in advance. For the sake of this notification procedure, collective dismissals are defined as employment terminations affecting:

  1. at least five workers in an establishment of 21 to 99 employees; or
  2. 5% or more of the workforce at an establishment of 100 to 600 employees; or
  3. at least 30 workers at an establishment of more than 600 employees; or
  4. at least five workers aged 50 or over, regardless of company size.

The requirements of the notification procedure are met if the employer informs the competent agency in writing and waits one month before carrying out the intended dismissals. Any failure to observe these rules will render all pertinent dismissals void.

1.8 Summary dismissals

A summary dismissal (Entlassung) does not require observance of any particular notice periods but must be issued without undue delay. Summary dismissals are possible for good reasons only, as regulated by law. Disloyalty, untrustworthiness, or persistent refusal to carry out one’s contractually agreed duties are typical reasons for a summary dismissal.

Summary dismissals are effective even if they do not meet the above requirements. However, summary dismissal may then be treated as a regular dismissal, meaning the respective protection against dismissal is applicable.

1.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

Non-compliance by the terminating party with the prescribed or agreed periods or dates of notice constitutes untimely notice. Although such untimely notice remains effective, it entitles the employee to dismissal compensation (Kündigungsentschädigung). Such compensation consists of the remuneration that the employee would have received had the dismissal been properly expressed (i.e. all due remuneration between the actual termination of employment and the date of termination prescribed by law, collective agreement, works agreement or employment contract).

An employee is entitled to General Protection against Dismissal may claim reinstatement in court. Reinstatement is granted if it is proven that the termination of the employment contract has adverse personal effects on the employee's life (e.g. little chance of finding employment of similar standing and income in a reasonable time) and the employer cannot adequately justify the termination.

1.10 Severance pay

Austrian law distinguishes between two severance pay models: one is applicable to all employment relationships established prior to 1 January 2003 (“old model”), and the other to employment agreements signed after that date (“new model”).

The old severance pay model requires the employer to pay a sum based on the length of service at the end of the employment relationship unless it is the employee who terminates the contract or if the employee is dismissed without notice for good cause (i.e. summary dismissal). If the employment relationship is terminated after three years employment, the employee is entitled to severance pay of two months salary. After 25 years, the employee is entitled to twelve months salary.

The new severance pay scheme requires the employer to pay a sum of 1.53% of every monthly salary into an employee severance fund (Betriebliche Vorsorgekasse). At the end of any given employment, the employee may then either request disbursement of the collected amount or leave it in the fund for further investment.

1.11 Non-competition clauses

Non-competition clauses are only valid insofar as they last for no more than one year after the termination of employment, are restricted to the employer’s line of business and if the employee’s monthly income is above a certain threshold at the end of the employment relationship (e.g. for 2020, EUR 3,580 for contracts concluded after 29 December 2015). Also, contractual penalties are limited by law to six net monthly remunerations (without taking into account the 13th and 14th annual salary). If the parties agree to such a contractual penalty, the right to observe the non-competition clause or the compensation of any further damage is excluded.

A non-competition clause may not cause undue hardship to the employee’s career when weighed against the employer’s justified business interests.

Judges may limit the scope of a clause, or the contractual penalty to be paid when violating the law. Non-competition clauses are generally rendered void when the employer carries out the dismissals.

1.12 Miscellaneous

Not applicable.

2. Dismissal of managing directors

2.1 Reasons for dismissal

A company may revoke the appointment or terminate the service contract without cause, but must do so in compliance with applicable notice periods and termination dates.

2.2 Form

A valid shareholder’s resolution is required on revocation of appointment as managing director and on termination of the service contract. A managing director has only to be notified in writing if so agreed in the service contract.

2.3 Notice period

Revocation of appointment: possible without notice.

Termination of the service contract: Austrian law does provide statutory minimum notice periods and dates, and rarely does collective agreements and their notice periods and termination dates apply unless a more favourable contractual agreement exists. Managing directors generally have fixed-term contracts or long contractual notice periods.

2.4 Involvement of works council

No involvement.

2.5 Involvement of a union

No involvement.

2.6 Approval of state authorities necessary

Not required.

2.7 Collective redundancies

Not applicable.

2.8 Summary dismissals

A summary dismissal (‘Entlassung’) does not require observance of any particular notice periods, but must be issued without undue delay. Summary dismissals are possible for good reasons or serious breach of duty, as regulated by law. Disloyalty, untrustworthiness, or persistent refusal to carry out one’s contractually agreed duties are typical reasons for a summary dismissal.

2.9 Consequences if requirements are not met

If there is no valid shareholder resolution, the revocation of appointment as managing director will be invalid.

It is possible for the revocation to be valid and for the termination of the service contract to be invalid. If this is the case, the managing director is entitled to continued payment of salary and adequate employment.

2.10 Severance pay

Austrian law distinguishes between two severance pay schemes: one is applicable to all employment relationships established prior to 1 January 2003 (‘old model’), and the other to employment agreements signed after that date (‘new model’).

 The old severance pay model requires the employer to pay a sum based on the employee’s length of service at the end of the employment relationship unless it is the employee who terminates the contract or if the employee is dismissed without notice for good cause (i.e. summary dismissal). If the employment relationship is terminated after three years employment, the employee is entitled to severance pay of two months salary. After 25 years, the employee is entitled to twelve months salary.

The new severance pay scheme requires the employer to pay a sum of 1.53 % of every monthly salary into an employee severance fund (‘Betriebliche Vorsorgekasse’). At the end of any given employment, the employee may then either request disbursement of the collected amount or to leave it in the fund for further investment.

2.11 Non-competition clauses

Non-competition clauses are only valid insofar as they are concluded for the duration of no more than one year after the termination of employment, are restricted to the employer’s line of business and if the employee’s monthly income is above a certain threshold at the end of the employment relationship (e.g. for 2020, EUR 3,580 for contracts concluded after the 29th December 2015) Also, contractual penalties are limited by law to an amount of six net monthly remunerations (without taking into account the 13th and 14th annual salary). If the parties agree on such a contractual penalty, the right to observe the non-competition clause or the compensation of any further damage is excluded.

A non-competition clause may not represent an undue hardship on the employee’s career when weighed against the employer’s justified business interests. Judges may limit the scope of a clause, or the contractual penalty to be paid when violating the law. Non-competition clauses are generally rendered void when employers are responsible for dismissals.

2.12 Miscellaneous

Not applicable.