[Austria] ECJ Good Friday holiday ruling [Austria] ECJ Good Friday holiday ruling

[Austria] ECJ Good Friday holiday ruling
12 Mar 2019

A debate over the fairness of Good Friday as a paid public holiday for only four branches of the church has concluded with a half-day holiday for all, after ECJ intervention, the International Law Office reports.

Austrian Law recognises Good Friday as a paid holiday for only four of its churches:  the Evangelical Church Augsburg Confession, the Evangelical Church Helvetic Confession, the Old Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) intervened after Austria’s supreme court found this to be discriminatory and asked ECJ for a preliminary ruling.

The request for help came after Michal Bobek - Austria’s advocate general - followed the finding by suggesting employees affected by the discriminatory regulation could claim holiday back pay. From their companies or, where claims had time restrictions, directly from the government. The suggestion could have exposed the Austrian state to millions of holiday compensation requests and potential backpay of hundreds of millions of euros.

The ECJ considered four questions:

  • Does EU law preclude Austrian rule?
  • Was the exception of a relatively small group of church members justified?
  • Was the exception justified because it was a positive and specific measure?
  • Should all employees receive the same rights?

    The advocate general and the European Court of Justice both concluded that the Good Friday public holiday pay provision does constitute discrimination on the grounds of religion. The ECJ also agreed with the advocate general that employees of the favoured churches were comparable to all other employees. They said holiday pay on Good Friday had been granted if employees belonged to one of the churches in question, not according to their observance of the holiday.

    The ECJ, like the advocate general, denied the claim that the exception was justified as a measure for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others or as a measure to compensate for disadvantages linked to religion. The European Court did not agree with Mr Bobek in their conclusion on employees receiving the same rights.

    Two options were offered for the courts to consider:

    • ‘Levelling up’ to provide the Good Friday rights to all employees
    • ‘Levelling down’ to grant these rights to no one

      The advocate general favour levelling up but the ECJ disagree and propose a solution closer to levelling down. With the introduction of the Austrian government's new resolution, all workers will have a half-day off work from 2:00 pm on Good Friday.

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      A debate over the fairness of Good Friday as a paid public holiday for only four branches of the church has concluded with a half-day holiday for all, after ECJ intervention, the International Law Office reports.

      Austrian Law recognises Good Friday as a paid holiday for only four of its churches:  the Evangelical Church Augsburg Confession, the Evangelical Church Helvetic Confession, the Old Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) intervened after Austria’s supreme court found this to be discriminatory and asked ECJ for a preliminary ruling.

      The request for help came after Michal Bobek - Austria’s advocate general - followed the finding by suggesting employees affected by the discriminatory regulation could claim holiday back pay. From their companies or, where claims had time restrictions, directly from the government. The suggestion could have exposed the Austrian state to millions of holiday compensation requests and potential backpay of hundreds of millions of euros.

      The ECJ considered four questions:

      • Does EU law preclude Austrian rule?
      • Was the exception of a relatively small group of church members justified?
      • Was the exception justified because it was a positive and specific measure?
      • Should all employees receive the same rights?

        The advocate general and the European Court of Justice both concluded that the Good Friday public holiday pay provision does constitute discrimination on the grounds of religion. The ECJ also agreed with the advocate general that employees of the favoured churches were comparable to all other employees. They said holiday pay on Good Friday had been granted if employees belonged to one of the churches in question, not according to their observance of the holiday.

        The ECJ, like the advocate general, denied the claim that the exception was justified as a measure for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others or as a measure to compensate for disadvantages linked to religion. The European Court did not agree with Mr Bobek in their conclusion on employees receiving the same rights.

        Two options were offered for the courts to consider:

        • ‘Levelling up’ to provide the Good Friday rights to all employees
        • ‘Levelling down’ to grant these rights to no one

          The advocate general favour levelling up but the ECJ disagree and propose a solution closer to levelling down. With the introduction of the Austrian government's new resolution, all workers will have a half-day off work from 2:00 pm on Good Friday.

          OTHER STORIES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

          A compliance guide to EU payroll

          Minding your manners in Central Europe

          Austria under fire over changes to family allowance rules for EU nationals

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