Legal developments in Austria from BMA Brandstätter Rechtsanwälte GmbH
24 March 2020
Dr Jürgen Brandstätter from BMA Brandstätter Rechtsanwälte GmbH, Alliott Groups Law firm member in Austria, gives an update on legal developments in Austria in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Dr Jürgen Brandstätter from BMA Brandstätter Rechtsanwälte GmbH, , Alliott Groups Law firm member in Austria, gives an update on legal developments in the country in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Update 7 April:
In sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday last week, the Austrian Parliament amended almost 100 laws. These amendments are summarized in the so-called 3rd Covid-19-Act, 4th Covid-19-Act and 5th Covid-19-Act. They were still promulgated last Saturday in the Federal Law Gazette under the numbers BGBl I 23/2020, I 24/2020 und 25/2020 and largely entered into force on Sunday, April 5th, 2020.
The purpose and aim of the legal changes are:
- to provide the state authorities with the necessary means to protect the state and its citizens as far as possible from the effects of the coronavirus crisis;
- to provide the economy and companies with liquidity to avoid a flood of bankruptcies and mass unemployment as a result of the current widespread economic standstill;
- to protect employees and private individuals from the negative effects of the coronavirus crisis as far as possible.
It is impossible to present all legal changes here so here are the most important ones:
- The € 38 billion of funding originally promised by the government to support companies and workers will be increased to € 43 billion.
- The Federal Government has founded a COVID-19 Finanzierungsagentur des Bundes GmbH (COFAG) and endowed it with a capital of € 15 billion. COFAG's task is to protect companies from economic losses due to the coronavirus crisis and insolvency by investing in or granting financial guarantees to them.
- The resources made available to the already established hardship fund will be doubled from € 1 billion to € 2 billion.
- The provisions of the Insolvency Code will be amended. The deadlines for the obligation to file for insolvency are extended.
- In corporate law, the deadlines for preparing annual financial statements and for filing them with the Commercial Register will be extended.
- Shareholders' meetings can also be held without the physical presence of the participants and resolutions can also be adopted by other means, such as by circulation or with the aid of electronic means of communication.
- Notarial deeds may be drawn up without the physical presence of the participants using electronic means of communication.
- A legal moratorium on the payment of credit instalments will be introduced for consumers who are unable to repay their loans due to the coronavirus crisis. In order to prevent such persons from losing their homes, tenancy law provisions will be amended, and arrangements made for postponing eviction executions.
- As long as the initial restrictions and restrictions on official activities imposed due to the coronavirus crisis remain in place, applications for the granting and extension of residence permits can be submitted to the authorities by post or electronically.
Update 23 March:
Over the weekend of 21 and 22 March 2020, the Austrian Federal Government submitted more than 40 laws to the Austrian Parliament for adoption. These laws (the so-called 2nd COVID-19 Act) were published in the Federal Law Gazette No. I 16/2020 on 22 March 2020 and will enter into force on 23 March 2020. The implementation of these regulations will reduce the effects of the coronavirus crisis:
- Small and medium-sized enterprises will receive economic support to avoid insolvency.
- Because kindergartens and schools have largely been closed due to the coronavirus crisis, and thus these childcare facilities are no longer available for the children, the employer can grant special care time, i.e. time off, of up to three weeks for parents whose children are affected by such closures.
- Section 1155 of the Austrian Civil Code (ABGB), which regulates the continued payment of remuneration, has been expanded by two paragraphs. According to these, employers whose companies are affected by business restrictions can demand that employees take leave during the period of the business restriction.
- An amendment to the Federal Fiscal Code (Bundesabgabenordnung - BAO) interrupts the period for appeals until 30 April 2020.
- Likewise, the time limits for appeals in all administrative proceedings will be interrupted until 30.04.2020.
- Also, in pending court proceedings, all procedural deadlines are interrupted until 30.04.2020. Excepted from this are performance deadlines.
- In the area of corporate law, meetings, such as general meetings of joint-stock companies, may be held without the physical presence of the participants. General meetings of joint stock companies for a fiscal year may be held within twelve months of the following fiscal year.
- The legislator has also made changes to the healthcare and medical equipment professions in order to ensure continued medical care during the period of this pandemic.
Apart from the 2nd COVID-19 Act, the Austrian Federal Government has also taken other legal measures to protect the economy from the effects of the coronavirus crisis as far as possible.
The possibility already existing in Austria for companies to employ their staff on so-called short-time working has been extended and is being given additional financial support.
The Austrian Federal Government has announced a 38-billion-Euro aid programme for the economy. Part of this aid programme is the establishment of a hardship fund for one-person companies, freelancers, NPOs and micro-enterprises.
About BMA Brandstätter Rechtsanwälte GmbH
BMA Brandstätter Rechtsanwälte GmbH is an independent Austrian business law firm with strong international ties and a simple philosophy: Legal advice must be clear and comprehensible; our clients shall profit from our services. In order to fulfill this promise, we offer our clients a team of highly qualified business lawyers; assignment of one individual lawyer for each mandate counsel in all important areas of business law; co-operation with Alliott Group, a worldwide alliance of business law firms for our international clients; services in German, English, Russian, French, Spanish, Hungarian and Romanian; state-of-the-art office facilities; and flexible and transparent fee arrangements.
Lawyers working for BMA Brandstätter Rechtsanwälte GmbH have successfully advised renowned businesses, including global players and small start-ups.