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Minimum wages and workers’ rights around the world, Part 2.

We bring you the second part of a series on minimum wages and workers’ rights around the world. In part two, we look at our neighbour Austria, which is attracting thousands of Czech workers. But we also look at the United States and its virtually non-existent workers’ rights. Finally, we’ll give you advice on what to look out for when looking for work abroad.

8 minutes of reading

Read also parts 1 and 3 of this series:

In Part 1, we look at what the purpose of the minimum wage actually is, and what employee rights you may encounter. Then we’ll look at specific areas – Europe, the European Union and Germany.

In the third part we will focus on two European countries – Slovakia and Switzerland. Finally, we will look at which countries offer the highest and lowest wages in the world.

Chapters of the article

Minimum wage – Austria

Austria has a minimum wage. However, this wage is not set by the state itself, but by collective agreements between employee unions and employers’ associations. The amount of the minimum wage depends on various factors, such as the type of work, the age of the employee and his/her experience and the place of work.

This is why you will find higher minimum wages in some sectors (e.g. banking) and lower minimum wages in others (e.g. textiles). The lowest wage you can expect to encounter in Austria is €1,500 per month, with most employers offering a 13th and 14th salary (one in June and one in December).

Tip: We have unions here too, but they don’t have as important a function as in Austria. Read what unions are and what they do.

Further protection of employees

Collective agreements also play a major role in other aspects and different sectors therefore offer different rights to employees. Nevertheless, there are some uniform rules. These relate to working time, which is normally 40 hours per week with a maximum of 60 hours per week (but many companies have reduced working time to 38 hours per week). Employees are entitled to a 30-minute break after working six hours and a 45-minute break if they have worked eight hours.

Tip: Few of us can work for eight hours without a break. Even for the sake of work performance itself, it is good to take a break and rest for a while. Last but not least, the law requires it. Find out what the minimum requirements for taking breaks at work are.

As for the probationary period, it is limited to one month, with even shorter periods in some sectors. During this period, the employee can be given immediate notice without any notice period. However, the same applies to the other party.

Holidays in Austria are set at 25 days per year for those working 5 days per week and 30 days for those working 6 days per week. However, entitlement to holiday entit lement does not arise until 6 months’ service has been completed. Until then, the employee is entitled to 2 days of holiday per month. Maternity leave usually starts 8 weeks before the due date of childbirth and for 8 weeks after the birth, female employees are prohibited from working. Subsequent parental leave then lasts until the child reaches the age of two at the most.

Are you about to sign an employment contract?

Have it checked by an attorney. This is the only way to make sure you really know what you’re signing and won’t be fooled.

What it’s like to work in Austria

As a resident of an EU country, you don’t need a visa or residence permit to work in Austria. It’s also easier for you to have your Czech diplomas and courses recognised. However, you should take into account that the approval process can be quite lengthy, especially for some professions.

Minimum wage – USA

The minimum wage in the US will vary considerably. It is a federation and therefore each state has slightly different labour laws. Nevertheless, there are also federal laws that apply to all states indiscriminately. The federal minimum wage here is set at $7.25 per hour, or $2.13 for tipped employees (waiters, etc.)

In terms of individual states, Washington offers the highest minimum wage. It is $16.28 per hour. The lowest wage can be found in Wyoming or Georgia, for example, where the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Other employee protections

The U.S. is not exactly a state known for a robust system of employee rights. For this reason, you may find this system quite surprising. First and foremost, there is no set maximum length of working hours. Thus, workers can easily work 80 hours per week. Work in excess of 40 hours per week is considered overtime. However, overtime may or may not be paid – it must be paid to employees who are paid by the hour, at a minimum of 1.5 times the standard hourly wage. However, employees who are paid a set monthly wage do not have to be paid overtime.

Tip: Have you been leaving work at 8pm for six months and it hasn’t affected your paycheck yet? Learn what you deserve for working overtime.

There is no such thing as mandatory paid leave in the United States. So it is a bonus that only some companies offer to attract more employees. Most often, it is 11 days of paid time off per year. In most cases, however, employees must take unpaid leave. It’s no better in the case of maternity leave. Although working mothers are entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave, it is unpaid. Therefore, it is not uncommon for women to return to work a few days after giving birth for financial reasons. The same applies to parental leave, which is synonymous with maternity leave.

What it’s like to work in the US

Working in the US is not so easy. As a citizen of the Czech Republic, you can obtain a Visa Waiver, which allows you to stay in the USA for up to 90 days. However, you will need a special work visa to work. The best visa is the employment-based visa. It will be approved based on what you can do, your education and work experience. You may therefore be refused.

Tip: Working abroad can also involve the need for housing. Read how to rent a house abroad.

What to look out for when looking for a job abroad

When looking for a job abroad, you may encounter a number of pitfalls and scammers. Let’s take a look at what to look out for:

  • Fake job offers: be wary of job offers that seem too good or that require you to pay any upfront fees or share sensitive information. This is because scammers often use fake job offers to collect personal information or money from unsuspecting job seekers.
  • Bad job agencies: if you decide to look for a job abroad through various job agencies, check other people’s reviews and experiences first. This will help you avoid agencies asking for unreasonable fees and similar unfair practices.
  • Illegal employment arrangements: Avoid any job offers that involve illegal activities such as working without a valid visa or working underground. At best you will not be paid for your work and at worst you may face consequences in the form of fines or a ban on stay.
  • Misleading contracts: Read your employment contract carefully and make sure you are clear about all the terms and conditions.
  • Data theft: Protect your personal and financial information in the online space. Be careful when giving out sensitive information such as your birth number or bank account details.
  • Workplace Exploitation: Be aware of potential exploitation or abuse, including unpaid wages, excessive hours, unsafe working conditions or discrimination in the workplace. Study your country’s labour laws and regulations to understand your rights as an employee. Our series of articles can also help you do this.

Tip: Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace and efforts to find a normal solution are not working? Do you want to file a lawsuit but are not sure if you will win? We will assess your chances of success in court and suggest a solution that will lead to the desired outcome.

  • Forced labour: some jobs are just a cover for modern forced labour. It works by taking away documents (under various pretexts) when the employee starts work or by assigning a debt (e.g. as a recruitment fee) which the employee has to work off. The person who is in a foreign country and does not speak the language is then left to the employer alone, has no way to defend himself and has no choice but to work.

Read also parts 1 and 3 of this series:

In Part 1, we look at what the purpose of the minimum wage actually is, and what employee rights you may encounter. Then we’ll look at specific areas – Europe, the European Union and Germany.

In the third part we will focus on two European countries – Slovakia and Switzerland. Finally, we will look at which countries offer the highest and lowest wages in the world.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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