Employment Contracts in English - Ok in Austria? (Vienna)
I often hear a similar story from international employers when entering Austria: They normally issue English language employment contracts to all employees in their international locations. But they were uncertain whether that's ok to do in Austria as well. Here's what I tell them.
As you may know, the official language in Austria is German. However, the overall English language proficiency in Austria is quite high, especially among the younger workforce (in part attributable to the fact that they grew up binge watching Netflix movies and series, maybe?).
If you want to conclude an employment contract (or other employment document, for that matter) with an employee in English, you can do that in Austria. There is no law applicable in Austria that explicitly prohibits you from (only) issuing English language employment contracts. However, there are a few things to consider:
.) language proficiency of the individual employees: do the employees understand English to an extent that allows them grasping all the mutual rights and obligations arising from the contract? If you are aware that they don't, you may have to provide them with additional information or even German language documents.
.) uniformity of documentation among all staff: you would probably prefer using the same templates in your HR management. Issuing English language contract versions to employees who have sufficient proficiency, while handing out German language versions to those who don't will be a pain.
.) German is the official language in Austria, including in courts of law: Should any employment disputes arise, it may become necessary to submit a certified translation of English language documents as evidence. Often, this need becomes apparent at the worst possible time and translators will demand an extra fee for last minute translations.
So how can you avoid having to adapt your templates sporadically for new hires or struggling to obtain an eleventh-hour translation for evidence in court?
I tend to propose bilingual contract versions, with the German and English language texts side by side. This way you can still apply the same contract language used throughout your international locations. It also gives you the benefit of full comprehension by all those employees whose proficiency in English is subpar. Moreover, you have a version handy that will readily be accepted as evidence by a court of law in Austria.
However, there are also some things to consider when drafting and using bilingual versions of documents. I will highlight those another time.
I hope this article was informative. For further information, please reach out to me.