Working hours law – where are the limits of working hours?

For most employees of private employers in Austria, the Working Hours Act forms the legal framework for this. The Working Hours Act defines the term working hours as the time from the beginning to the end of work, excluding rest breaks. It then sets the daily and weekly normal working hours, with numerous variations, and the maximum limits of working hours. The difference between the maximum permitted working time and the normal working time is made up of overtime and extra hours. In the following, these central elements of the Austrian Working Hours Act described in more detail.

Exceptions to the Working Hours Act

Since 1.9.In 2018, the exception in the area of executive employees has been greatly expanded. Other employees who have been given significant independent decision-making authority and whose total working time is not measured or determined in advance due to the special characteristics of the activity, or can be determined by these employees themselves in terms of location and duration, are also now included. An exception with the same wording is also found in the Work Rest Act. If an employee falls under this exception, neither the daily (12 hrs.) nor the weekly (12 hrs.) limits apply.) or weekly (60 hrs.) maximum working time nor the regulations on daily (11 hrs.) or weekly (36 hours.) rest period. The legal provisions on holiday work in the Work Rest Act also do not apply.

It should be noted, however, that the majority of these employees will nevertheless be covered by similar collective agreement provisions. Unfortunately, which employees fall under these exceptions is very unclear and depends on the specific situation in each individual case. This is conceivable in the case of branch managers, managers of larger departments, and possibly also in the case of certain field staff, etc.

Normal working hours

  • The statutory normal working time is 40 hours per week, 8 hours per day. If an extended weekend rest is taken (e.g., for a week-end), then this is permissible.B. a short Friday), then the normal working time can be extended to 9 hours. If window days are worked in, it is permitted to work 10 hours per day for a period of 13 weeks.
  • However, the concrete position of the daily working time and the breaks must be determined by individual agreement between the employee and the employer, unless there is a company agreement. A change is only permissible for the employer for operational reasons, if he announces this at least 2 weeks in advance and there are no important reasons of the employee (e.g. care of small children) to the contrary.
  • It should also be noted that numerous collective agreements have reduced the standard weekly working time to 38.5 hours.

Rest breaks

If the daily working time exceeds six hours, the Working Hours Act requires that the working time must be interrupted by a rest break of at least half an hour.

Daily rest period

After the end of the daily working time, an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours must be observed. By collective agreement, the daily rest period may be reduced to a maximum of 8 hours under certain conditions.

If, for example, on-call duty is agreed during the daily rest period, this is generally permissible on 10 days per month. If a work assignment takes place during on-call duty, the daily rest period may be reduced to 8 hours if another daily rest period is extended by at least four hours within two weeks. However, if a work assignment takes place in such a way that the 8-hour rest period is not observed, an 8-hour rest period must be taken after the end of this work assignment. If working time is lost on the next day as a result, this time must still be paid for.

The Act also provides for exceptions to the 11-hour rest period, z.B. in the case of shift work or also in the hotel, restaurant and accommodation industry.

Weekend rest, weekly rest

The weekend rest period is at least 36 hours, includes Sunday and must begin no later than 1 p.m. on Saturday. If work is now permissibly performed on Sundays (e.g. in food production, hospitals, etc.), this may also be the case.), a weekly rest of 36 hours must be granted as a substitute for this in this calendar week. This must include a full day of the week.

Substitute rest

If an employee is employed during the weekend rest period or the weekly rest period, he or she is entitled – in addition to remuneration for the hours worked – to a substitute rest period. For the hours worked (in a period of 36 hours before the start of work in the next working week), a time compensation of 1:1 is then due – in addition to the remuneration.


Overtime may occur when daily or weekly normal working hours are exceeded. The limit is 20 hours per week. Overtime is generally subject to a 50 percent bonus. Collective bargaining agreements usually provide for overtime in the evening or for. during the night or on weekends, a 100 percent surcharge is provided for.

There is a contractual obligation to work overtime only in the case of overtime up to a daily working time of 10 hours. Interests of the employee worthy of consideration (e.g. supervision of a child, care of relatives, etc.) must be taken into account.) can, however, stand in the way of overtime work.

If the daily working time of 10 hours is exceeded, the performance of a maximum of two additional hours of overtime (up to 12 hours) is permitted.) is permitted, but completely voluntary. This also applies to any overtime hours above the weekly working time of 50 hrs.

Employees are free to refuse such overtime without giving reasons.

Employees may not be discriminated against for refusing to work such overtime, in particular with regard to pay, opportunities for promotion and transfer. If employees are even dismissed because of this, they can challenge the dismissal in court within a period of two weeks.

Maximum limits on working hours

Daily working time is limited to 12 hours, weekly working time to 60 hours – including overtime hours! Working hours may not exceed 48 hours on average over a period of 17 weeks. The Working Hours Act provides for exceptions; it is advisable to ask the works council about this.

With regard to working hours with a share of active travel time of up to 12 hours, taking into account the regulations applicable to drivers, and allowing 10 hours of work through passive travel time in the Children’s and Young People’s Employment Act (KJBG) from the age of 16, a bill is currently being drafted and a resolution in the National Council is expected soon.

Even in the case of shift work, there is the possibility of extending the daily working time up to 12 hours (here even in the case of normal working time) within narrow legal limits.

Hospital Working Hours Act

For reasons of timeliness, the most important points of the Hospital Working Hours Act are also briefly presented. This applies primarily to health care professionals in hospitals. For other employees, the Working Hours Act usually applies.

The basic principles are:

  • Daily working time up to 13 hours
  • The average weekly working time within a 17-week period is 48 hours, in individual weeks up to 60 hours
  • "Extended duty" for nurses up to 25 hours, for physicians up to 32 hours; average weekly working hours may be extended up to 55 hours by company agreement and consent of individual employees (up to 30.6.2021).
  • rest breaks of at least 30 minutes from a working time of more than six hours, and two rest breaks of at least 30 minutes each in the case of "extended services" of more than 25 hours
  • Daily rest period of at least 11 hours; if the daily working time is between 8 and 13 hours, a rest period must be extended by four hours within 10 calendar days; in the case of "extended duties", a rest period must be extended by as many hours as the "extended duty" exceeds 13 hours within the next 17 calendar weeks.

With regard to the weekend rest or weekly rest period, the above mentioned working time law applies to the majority of the employees concerned.

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