1. Are people allowed to come into work without 2G proof?
As of today, persons without valid 2G proof are only allowed to leave their private living area in the following cases:
- averting imminent danger to life, limb, and property;
- caring for or assisting persons in need of support as well as exercising family rights or fulfilling family duties;
- meeting necessary basic needs, including contact with immediate family, securing basic provisions, etc.;
- for professional and educational purposes, where this is necessary;
- spending time outdoors for physical and mental recreation;
- performing official or judicial duties that cannot be postponed;
- participating in elections;
- for the purpose of permissible entry into customer areas of premises of commercial and service enterprises; and
- attending permissible meetings.
The restriction of movement does not apply to persons with a valid 2G proof or persons under 12 years of age. In addition, only one person from an outside household may have private contact with persons from one common household at a time.
2. What counts as 2G proof?
Proof of vaccination
- A second vaccination is valid for a maximum of 360 days from the date of the second vaccination, with a minimum of 14 days between the first and second vaccination;
- Vaccines where only one vaccination is scheduled (Johnson&Johnson) are valid from the 22ⁿd day after vaccination for a total of 270 days from the date of vaccination;
- For persons who have already recovered and have been vaccinated once, the vaccination is valid for 360 days from the date of vaccination;
- The third vaccination (or second vaccination in the case of single-use vaccines and recovered persons) is valid for 360 days, with a minimum of 120 days between the second and third vaccination, or 14 days in the case of Johnson&Johnson.
Proof of recovery
- Proof of recovery from an infection contracted in the last 180 days;
- A quarantine order not older than 180 days if issued to a person confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Until 5 December 2021, a certificate of a successful first vaccination with a centrally approved vaccine and a valid PCR test (validity: 72 hours after test collection; Vienna: 48 hours) is equivalent to a 2G proof.
School-age children can use an antigen test or a PCR test as 2G proof if the regular testing intervals at school are observed. Otherwise they can use a PCR test for 2G proof.
3. Must employers allow employees to work from their home office moving forward?
Last week, the Minister of Health issued a recommendation for home office work. The same rules apply as for the previous lockdowns, and no distinction is made between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Wherever possible, employees „should“ work from home again. As in the past, there is currently no obligation for unvaccinated, vaccinated or recovered employees to work from home.
In the absence of a legal obligation to work from home, the home office regulations, which came into force on 1 April 2021, continue to apply, and state that the employer and the employee must have a home office agreement in order for the employee to work from home. It is not yet clear whether an employer can unilaterally order an employee to work from home based on the 4th Covid-19 wave.
Employees without 2G proof may only leave their private living quarters for professional or educational purposes if it is „necessary„. If it is not necessary for the work to be performed at the workplace, theoretically the employer can order employees without 2G proof to work from home. If it is possible for an employee without valid 2G proof to work from home, but they do not agree to work from home, the ability to put the employee on unpaid leave may be facilitated because the criteria to relieve the employer of the obligation to pay salary will be assessed more strictly than before.
For legal certainty, we recommend in any case promoting and voluntarily agreeing on home office work with the employees for the duration of the lockdown. Working from home reduces the risk of infection, especially for employees who need extra protection (i.e. non-vaccinated employees or vaccinated employees who would be high-risk in the event of breakthrough infection).
4. What proof do employees need to get into the office?
The 3G rule continues to apply in the workplace. However, as soon as there are sufficient PCR testing capacities in Austria, it is very likely that the rule will change to 2.5G. For the moment, antigen tests conducted officially (by pharmacies, test lanes, etc.) are still accepted. Note: Antibody detections and self-administered antigen tests (known as „living room tests„) are no longer valid.
Starting immediately, people who work in the service industry at night („Nachtgastronomie„) and mobile caretakers, who have direct contact with customers/patients, must have 2G proof, or they must have a PCR test and wear an FFP2 mask.
As before, employees must always present valid 3G proof if physical contact with other persons is necessary. Since today wearing an FFP2 mask is no longer a substitute for 3G proof, as this was merely a transitional regulation.
Proof is not required if there is no physical contact at the place of work, or if there are no more than two physical contacts per day that take place outdoors and last no longer than 15 minutes each.
5. Do employees have to wear an FFP2 mask?
As of today, FFP2 masks are required when entering the customer area in closed rooms of business premises and generally in all public places. Lingering is also considered to be entering. It is not yet clear whether this mask requirement will also apply to employees at the workplace. The general FFP2 mask requirement applies in any case to workplaces accessible to the public.
Starting this week in Vienna, FFP2 masks will be required in restaurants and indoors. FFP2 masks are also to be required in the workplace.
Starting today in Salzburg, there is a general FFP2 mask requirement. Employees with customer contact must also wear an FFP2 mask.
Even employees with 3G proof can be ordered to wear an FFP2 mask in justified cases (customer contact, high risk coworkers, etc.).
6. Who is responsible for checking whether customers have 2G proof or are wearing a mask?
Customers must be checked thoroughly upon entering areas where the law requires 2G proof for entry (by the customer) and admission (by the business) (in particular the hospitality industry, accommodation establishments, body-related services, care for the elderly, and gatherings of 25 or more persons).
It is currently not clear what level of check is necessary where 2G proof is required for „entry“ only (e.g. in general trade or for services performed without close proximity to the body). The Chamber of Commerce assumes that the health authorities are responsible for conducting checks with the support of the police, but that employers are not required to check customers as well. However, this view is controversial. There is a possibility that the duty to check also applies to the employer, at least for spot checks. Until this is clarified, we recommend that businesses conduct at least random checks on customers when they enter the premises.
7. Other measures
- Since today, the 2G rule will also apply to retail beyond daily needs. This means that people without 2G proof may no longer enter shops that are not for daily provisions.
- Starting this week in Vienna, people eating out at night or attending gatherings of 25 people or more will need 2G+ (2G proof plus PCR test). This could have a massive impact on all holiday parties and events.
- In Upper Austria, all events have been banned until 6 December 2021 (with some exceptions) and food services must remain closed at night.
8. Will there continue to be aid for affected companies?
Some state aid is still available, such as the fixed cost subsidy („Fixkostenzuschuss“). In addition, expired aid is likely to be extended, or new aid is very likely to be granted. Short-time work can also still be reported and aid can be obtained. Should your company be economically affected by the increasingly stringent measures, we recommend that you look into taking advantage of any aid that might be available.