This article is the first in a series of informative articles that I am creating to help self-employed people in Austria who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic understand their rights and possibilities
*Because this is an unofficial translation, provided purely to help people, please understand that the translation is not perfect.
This information has been primarily extracted from the Chamber of Labour’s (WKO) website on the Coronavirus.
OPERATIONAL RESTRICTIONS EPU (EINZELPERSONUNTERNEHMEN / SINGLE-PERSON BUSINESS)
My business has been restricted or closed down as a result of compliance with the ordinance § 20 Epidemics Act 1950 (Epidemiegesetz 1950). Can I receive compensation (e.g. because goods could not be sold)?
(Note: To learn more about the Epidemics Act 1950 in English, please check this website)
Yes, if the business was closed down as a result of compliance with § 20 of the Epidemics Act 1950, you are entitled to compensation for the resulting loss of assets (loss of earnings) according to §32 para. 1 number 5 in conjunction with §32 para. 4 of the Epidemics Act. For self-employed persons and companies, the compensation is to be calculated on the basis of the expected respective commercial / business income. In addition, business owners shall be reimbursed for the remuneration which they have to continue to pay to employees if the business is restricted or closed. The same applies also in the case that the business owners are obliged to continue paying remuneration, even if the employees are prevented from working by the authorities or traffic.
Compensation is also provided for objects that are damaged or destroyed during disinfection as a result of compliance with official procedures.
The claim for compensation must be submitted to the district administrative authority in the area in which these measures were taken within six weeks of the date upon which the official measures were lifted; after this date, no further claims may be filed. In Vienna, the compensation is handled by the Department of Health Law of the MA 40 (Fachbereich Gesundheitsrecht der MA 40).
Attention: The application (compensation claim) must be received by the authority within 6 weeks (of the date the measures are lifted)! (substantive legal deadline). (VwGH 2000/11/0061).
There is no single application form for all of Austria. In many cases, an informal letter can be sent to the district administrative authority (Bezirksverwaltungsbehörde) with the title “Antrag auf Vergütung des Verdienstentgangs gemäß § 32 Epidemiegesetz” (application for compensation for loss of earnings according to §32 Epidemics Act), including a description of the expected loss of earnings. If you would like to file a claim for loss due to compliance with disinfection procedures (objects damaged or destroyed), a similar letter can be sent. with the subject line “Anspruch auf Entschädigung”, including a clear description of the object damaged or destroyed and how this happened. The authorities will then inform you which documents are required as proof.
Let’s put this in simpler language
Who am I? I am self-employed, own a business, or am employed by a business.
Initial problem: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had to close/restrict my business, I have lost business (or contracts), or something I own (business-related) has been damaged or destroyed because I complied with official disinfection requirements.
Subsequent problem: I have earned less money and / or expect to earn less money due to the pandemic. I have to replace an object that was damaged or destroyed.
What should I do? Keep as many written records as possible of your losses! If contracts are cancelled via e-mail or letter, keep these records. If you receive a notice that your employer (the business) will restrict business hours or close the business, keep this notice. If something is damaged or destroyed because you complied with disinfection requirements, write a memo that describes what happened, when, and who else might have witnessed this, and take pictures if possible. You get the picture. Long story short, get as much down in writing as possible. You may need to supply proof of losses that support your claim for compensation to the authorities.
Ok, what do I do next? Now, you need to send letters to the competent authorities (see the link to Bezirksversaltungsbehörde above), but there is (unfortunately) not a template available (or I could not find one). To get the compensation claim process started, though, even a 2-3 sentence letter will be sufficient! Make sure that the subject line of your letter is clear (Antrag or Anspruch, see last paragraph in section above), so that the authorities can more easily process your claim. If you are self-employed and have a trade license (Gewerbe), it is probably a helpful to cite your GISA number. If you are employed by someone else, it is probably helpful to provide the business name and address.
Anything else? Make a copy of this letter before you send it off, and keep a record of when you sent it off. In this way, you can check back with the authorities if you do not receive a reply within a reasonable time frame (1-2 weeks). It is probably a good idea to send this via both post and e-mail, so that you have both physical and electronic records.
Additional Helpful Information
According to the provisions of § 32 of the Epidemics Act, private individuals and companies are entitled to compensation for loss of earnings if and to the extent
- they have been isolated/quarantined, or
- they have been prohibited from supplying food, or
- they have been prohibited from performing a professional activity, or
- they are employed in a business that has been restricted or closed down, or
- they operate a business which has been restricted or closed down, or
- they live in apartments or buildings that have been ordered to be vacated, or
- they live or work in a place where traffic restrictions have been imposed,
resulting in a loss of earnings.
Hey, will I still get paid? If companies and employees are affected by measures enacted as a result of the Epidemics Act, the employees are still entitled to punctual payment of their remuneration in accordance with the Continued Remuneration Act (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz).
How does this payment work? At the time remuneration is paid, the claim to remuneration is transferred from the Federal Government to the employer.
→ Simpler language: Austrian law requires the employer to keep paying you
The employer’s share of compensation for the period that they cannot work / are restricted from working is to be reimbursed by the Federal Government.
→ Simpler language: The employer is able to receive reimbursement for (at least a larger part) of this renumeration from the government. This is part of the larger ‘support package’ for businesses that this being discussed by the government at this time.
What if I am self-employed? If you are self-employed, this compensation is calculated on the basis of the expected commercial / business income (i.e. what you expect to earn in the near future due to the restrictions or loss of business).
What if I get another job or file other claims? If the business or employee performs other (economic) activities during the period of restriction or if he or she is entitled to other claims due to other legal provisions, the resulting income shall be credited against the compensation claim filed with the Federal Government.