In 2019, my partner and I were delighted to discover that we were expecting a baby. In amongst the medical check-ups, conversations about names and regular calls to friends and family, I realized that I needed to understand the available provision for leave and associated financial support to help adjust for life as a family.
What I thought would be relatively straightforward turned out to be more complex than I anticipated. What follows is an overview of our experience as a family insured by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK), which may be helpful to those who are new to the subject.
The key instruments of family income support in Austria are the benefits paid out by the Familienlastenausgleichsfonds (Family Burden Equalisation Fund, often referred to by the “FLAF” acronym). This is managed by the Austrian Finance Ministry to at least partially compensate families for the additional cost of children. The FLAF is funded through a mix of an employer contribution and general tax revenue.
Legal entitlements of employees are primarily intended to ensure that raising a family and employment are reasonably compatible. The Mutterschutzgesetz (Maternity Protection Act) comes into effect as soon as an employer has been informed about a pregnancy. Under the program, expectant mothers are not allowed to work beyond the eighth week prior to the expected delivery date and eight weeks post-partum (times that may be extended under certain circumstances). This period is known as Mutterschutz.
During her Mutterschutz, my partner received Wochengeld (weekly financial support) from the ÖGK as defined in the Allgemeines Sozialversicherungsgesetz (General Social Insurance Act). Post-birth, she made an application for Familienbeihilfe (Family Allowance), a monthly payment designed to help cover essentials such a food, medicine, baby products etc. As long as the stated conditions continue to be met, this payment continues until the child is 18 and, potentially, through university up to the age of 26.
My partner made her application for Family Allowance using the finanzonline website. Each tax-payer who draws Family Allowance is also entitled to a child tax credit. This is paid together with the family allowance and does not require a separate application.
I also wanted to spend time together as a family in the months following the birth, and so I investigated the options available. If I took a Papamonat – a month of unpaid leave arranged with my employer – there would be the possibility of a Family Time Bonus, allowing me to temporarily stop work and dedicate myself exclusively to the family.
I gathered the necessary documentation and, with the help of a colleague in HR, prepared the necessary paperwork from my employer and submitted these, along with the other documents, to my health insurer, the ÖGK. This was possible either by downloading a form directly from the www.meinesv.at or www.finanzonline.at websites.
With the near-term now organised, our thoughts began to turn to the coming year. Following the Mutterschutz, parental leave is governed by the Maternity Protection and Paternity Leave Acts (Väterkarenzgesetz). Parents may freely decide which of them will claim the leave. There are various permutations on how leave may be shared, but, as a family, what worked for us was for my partner to take leave until our baby was one year old and then for me to take two months following this, until our baby reached fourteen months of age.
During periods of parental leave, which were unpaid by our employers, both my partner and I applied for financial assistance through the federal Kinderbetreuungsgeld (Child Care Allowance). Eligibility and the amount of support depend on a number of factors, including approval for the Family Allowance, with various payment options/models. Please note: Unpaid leave and the provisions for financial support come under separate acts, so be sure to check your eligibility for each before making your final decisions.
Once my partner had confirmed her leave with her employer (Mutterkarenz), she made her application for the Child Care Allowance on the finanzonline website. I followed some months later, once I had made arrangements for work leave (Väterkarenz) and obtained the required documents.
I must say here that the entitlement to leave and financial support has been extremely welcome and I am very grateful to the Austrian state for making this provision available.
In assessing what would be best for your situation, I would recommend:
- Do your own research: Review your employer’s intranet pages, speak to HR and search the web.
- There is flexibility in how leave may be shared and the timeframes in which it may be used. Take time to consider what is best for you and your family. While the experiences of others can be helpful, eligibility and individual circumstances may mean that you choose something different.
- The eligibility conditions, application forms and request for documents can be complex. Speak to your employer as soon as reasonably practicable to obtain the required documentation and apply promptly to minimize the possibility of delay.
- Be aware that taking leave may affect your annual leave accrual and have an impact on your 13th and/or 14th salaries. Discuss this matter with your employer’s HR team.
- And most important, best wishes to you and your family!
In German and English:
Maternity Protection Act –https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/Dokumente/Erv/ERV_1979_221/ERV_1979_221.pdf
Paternity Leave Act – https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/Dokumente/Erv/ERV_1989_651/ERV_1989_651.pdf
Familienlastenausgleichsgesetz – https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=10008220
Allgemeines Sozialversicherungsgesetz – https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=10008147
Familienzeitbonusgesetz – https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=20009586
Kinderbetreuungsgeldgesetz – https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=20001474
Information about Parental Leave: https://wien.arbeiterkammer.at/meinesituation/Ich_bekomme_ein_Kind.html
Detailed brochure about Parental Leave: https://wien.arbeiterkammer.at/service/broschueren/berufundfamilie/Mutterschutz_rg_bf.pdf