Shorter weekly rest periods possible for young workers

In October 1997, Austria's regulations on the weekly rest period of young employees, especially apprentices, were changed for the second time this year. The new rules permit collective agreements to abridge the weekend rest in four occupations, either for organisational reasons or in the interest of the young employees themselves.

In April 1997, Austrian lawmakers went beyond the EU Directive on the protection of young workers (94/33/EC of 22 June 1994) and legislated for a weekly rest period for young workers of 48 consecutive hours including a Sunday. In industries processing fresh food, especially bakers, pastry makers, butchers and dairies, this quickly proved unfeasible. In these cases, Saturdays and Mondays are the busiest days of the week. The issue became intertwined with the current shortage of apprenticeship positions (AT9706116F) and involved the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) and the Chamber of the Economy (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, WKÖ) in acrimonious public exchanges.

As a result, the Children and Youth Employment Act (Kinder- und Jugendbeschäftigungsgesetz, KJBG) had to be revised in October 1997. The new rules include the following:

  • the weekend rest in principle remains 48 consecutive hours;
  • for organisational reasons or in the interest of the young workers, it is possible to split the two days of rest. If this is done, the weekend rest has to be at least 43 consecutive hours and one other calendar day off has to be granted in the following week. The 43 hours have to commence absolutely no later than 15.00 on Saturday;
  • for young people apprenticed to bakers, butchers, pastry makers or dairies, and employed predominantly in the processing of fresh food, collective agreements can shorten the weekly rest period to 43 hours. Again the rest period has to start no later than 15.00 on Saturday;
  • in establishments that combine restaurant functions with any of the four occupations listed above, management has to choose between the exemptions applying to restaurants or the exemption specified here; and
  • for organisational reasons or in the interest of the young workers, the collective agreements for other occupations than the four named can permit an averaging-out of rest periods to 48 hours over a period to be specified. Individual rest periods must not be less than 43 hours and have to commence no later than 15.00 on Saturday.

The necessary collective agreements for bakers and pastry makers are being concluded, while those for the other occupations will follow. An additional settlement is being concluded in retailing.

At the same time the regulations on night shiftwork of young nurses in their last year of training were changed.

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