Sabbatical leave planned in Vienna

From 1998, employees of the city of Vienna will be able to take a year-long sabbatical, if legal changes planned for autumn 1997 are passed.

The city authorities of Vienna, together with the Union of Local Administration Employees (Gewerkschaft der Gemeindebediensteten, GGB), is planning to bring greater flexibility to the working time arrangements of its employees. Two measures are being proposed - sabbatical leave and greater opportunities for part-time work. Both sides are basically agreed these measures are needed and should take effect from the beginning of 1998, but the details will yet have to be negotiated.

Sabbatical leave was a measure also debated but not agreed on earlier in the year for the federal civil service (AT9703106N). In Vienna, the proposed arrangement is as follows:

  • the sabbatical is to last one full year, during which the employee must not engage in gainful employment;
  • pay is reduced to 80% for a period of five years including the sabbatical;
  • eligibility starts after six years of employment with the city;
  • at maximum of three sabbaticals are allowed during employment with the city;
  • employees on sabbatical are to be replaced by newly hired personnel; and
  • returnees from sabbaticals are entitled to employment with the city, but not necessarily in exactly the same position as before

The intention is both to provide additional employment and to act against "burn-out" syndrome, as well as freeing time for education, training, family, travel etc. According to the trade union, 50 people have already expressed an interest in the scheme. Experience in German cities such as Hamburg and Berlin shows that about 1% of the employees tend to take sabbaticals.

The second measure is to make part-time employment more broadly available. Up to now civil servants, unlike waged or salaried employees, could not choose to work part time. If the proposed measures take effect, this will now be possible. A number of conditions apply: the employer has to agree; the duration of part-time work is limited to a maximum of 10 years; and no other employment is permissible while working part time. Again the intention is to raise employment without incurring substantial new costs. Vienna has a rate of unemployment 10% above average, and the public administration is under severe constraints to expand spending.

The city currently employs 66,838 people in the administration and services, of whom 32,313 are civil servants, 19,207 are salaried employees, and 15,318 are waged. Further it employs 11,532 primary school teachers, while the city-owned utilities employ a further 15,079 of whom 10,397 are civil servants. Altogether there are over 93,000 employees to whom the new regulations would apply.

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