How long can I be employed in FWF projects?

In the FWF’s view, there is no specific time limit on how long staff members can be employed in FWF projects. However, there are probably restrictions based on collective bargaining agreements or statutory provisions (e.g., § 109 UG 2002). Therefore, if you are unsure about anything in this regard, the FWF recommends that you contact the human resources department of the research institution.

What types of employment are possible as part of an FWF project? What should I pay particular attention to?

The following types are possible:

Contract of employment: A (fixed-term) contract of employment (cost category: personnel costs) is the usual type of employment for regular work on the project. In the case of projects whose research institutions are subject to the Universities Act 2002 (UG 2002) as well as research institutions with a relevant agreement with the FWF, the research institution is the employer and is thus responsible for the payroll accounting. In all other cases, the principal investigator is the employer. In this instance, the FWF prescribes the mandatory involvement of the FWF’s tax consulting firms as a kind of payroll office for handling financial matters (i.e., payroll accounting) to relieve the principal investigators of this task and to avoid mistakes in terms of wage taxes and social insurance contributions. The principal investigator is responsible for reporting any changes made during the ongoing project (interruption or extension) to the office responsible for payroll (payroll office, human resources department). It should be ensured that any holiday leave is consumed during the course of the project. In exceptional cases, compensation for unused holiday leave can be paid out, provided that the project has sufficient funds.

Marginal employment: Marginal employment is a part-time employment relationship up to a specific amount defined annually by the Austrian Social Insurance Authority. The number of hours of marginal employment depends on the applicable wage rate. In this instance, the non-wage labour costs are low.

Freelance service contracts: In this case, a person agrees to perform recurring services for an employer without officially becoming a part of the organisation (the employer is responsible for the “employer’s share” of the social insurance contributions to the regional health insurance fund, as in the case of a contract of employment; however, the employee is liable to pay taxes on his/her income). FWF projects seldom meet the requirements in terms of labour law and social insurance needed to exercise this option. A freelance service contract must be justified on solid legal grounds and is only possible after this justification has been reviewed and approval has been granted to conclude a freelance service contract. Financial matters are handled by the payroll accounting offices.

Research grants for undergraduate students (i.e., without a master’s/diplom degree): Research grants are a kind of work stipend offered by the FWF to undergraduate students (i.e., without a master’s/diplom degree) who work on a project without a contract of employment or a contract for work and services. Research grants may only be paid out in the amount prescribed by the FWF in equal monthly instalments.

As this stipend is not an employment relationship, the amount of payment is appropriate recognition for work which is also performed in the student’s own educational interests. Thus, the scope of their work on the research project is reduced accordingly.

The following requirements must be met to receive research grants:

  • The student does not or has not had an employment relationship with the principal investigator or the research institution. (This does not include employment exclusively as part of an apprenticeship.) 
  • The student has not entered into any contractual agreements with the principal investigator.
  • The student has not entered into any contracts for works and services as part of the project in addition to the research grant.
  • The student has not finished his/her university studies with the respective master’s/diplom degree at the beginning of the student’s work on the research project. (The student is to inform the FWF immediately if he/she receives his/her diplom during the course of the project. Payment of the research grant is to stop within one month’s time.)

Grant-salaried principal investigator: Grant-salaried principal investigators are principal investigators whose salary is to be paid entirely or partially from the funding provided for the project. Most grant-salaried principal investigators are employed through a contract of employment and thus the regulations governing employment relationships in FWF projects are generally applicable. Grant-salaried principal investigators may only be paid a salary higher than that defined in the FWF’s standard personnel costs if this is prescribed by a collective bargaining agreement or another collective standard. A research subsidy is available for grant-salaried principal investigators who are not affiliated with a research institution or are affiliated with a research institution that is not subject to the Universities Act 2002 (UG 2002) and has not concluded a relevant agreement with the FWF. This is self-employment income that is paid out by a payroll office commissioned by the FWF and is equivalent to the salary rate of grant-salaried principal investigators. The researcher is insured by the Health Insurance Fund for the Self-Employed and the required contributions are paid by the FWF payroll office. The principal investigator is liable for paying the income tax.

Can I earn additional income from paid (self-)employment while I am employed full-time as a grant-salaried principal investigator?

Full-time grant-salaried principal investigators can earn regular additional income if it is necessary for the career of the principal investigator, and if it neither exceeds 5 hours per week nor the low-income threshold defined by social insurance law.

In special cases, the project can be temporarily interrupted for up to one year for the duration of another employment. (Several temporary project interruptions are added together). However, no funding can be requested, nor personnel be employed as part of the project during the temporary interruption.

What salary do project staff members receive?

The Executive Board of the FWF sets a salary scale on a yearly basis. The standard personnel costs of the FWF are reference rates which can be exceeded if necessary. A higher salary can be offered by reallocating project funds, for instance, by cutting other types of costs or by shortening the duration of employment.

Paying a salary less than the FWF’s standard personnel costs is possible if a collective bargaining agreement applies to the specific employment relationship and permits a lower salary.

Salary scale

What do I have to keep in mind if persons from outside the EU/EEA are to be employed in an FWF project?

The respective residence permit must be applied for depending on the duration of the person’s stay, the employer and the type of employment contract. More detailed information on the different types of visas and residence permits for students and researchers from non-EU/EEA member countries can be found in the Database Entry and Residence for Students and Researchers (OeAD).

Am I permitted to use third-party funds to pay FWF project staff members a higher salary than that defined in the FWF standard personnel costs?

Funding for salaries in excess of the amount specified in the collective bargaining agreement may only be requested if the relevant “market value” can be documented in a clear manner.  The higher salary can be financed either on a cost-neutral basis from the available project funds or through other third-party funds. The responsible payroll accounting office and the FWF must always be informed of a salary increase.

Who is my employer as part of an FWF project? The FWF?

Project staff members are not employed by the FWF: the employer is either the research institution (for universities according to the Universities Act 2002 (UG 2002) and research institutions with a relevant agreement with the FWF) or the principal investigator.

What applies for principal investigators in the case of pregnancy and maternity leave?

For principal investigators with a contract of employment, there is an absolute ban on working (maternity protection period) for eight weeks before the expected date of birth and for eight to twelve weeks after giving birth. During this time, the principal investigator cannot work on the project, but the project itself can continue as before. It is recommended to develop a plan in advance for carrying out the project during this time. Afterwards, the principal investigator can return to work full or part-time.

What applies if principal investigators take parental leave?

If the principal investigator receives a child care benefit, his/her work time can be reduced to 10 hours a week or to the low-income threshold (depending on the specific model of child care benefit chosen).

The following options are available if the principal investigator wishes to take parental leave:

  • Request a temporary change of principal investigator for the duration of the leave
  • Request a temporary interruption of the project for the duration of the parental leave (for a temporary interruption of up to 12 months, regardless of maternity leave, all that is required is due notice to the FWF; for a longer period of interruption due to parental leave, the request has to be approved by the FWF). Please keep in mind that no one can be employed as part of the project, and no funds may be dispersed during the temporary interruption.

What do I have to keep in mind if project staff members are pregnant or wish to take leave?

The pregnancy and leave of project staff members are to be reported in due time to the human resources department of the research institution or the payroll office of the FWF. The legal entitlements (maternity protection period, parental leave) are to be granted. The project incurs minor expenses during the maternity protection period (payments for the employee pension fund) and no expenses during parental leave.

What happens in the case of prolonged illness of project staff members?

The continued remuneration by the employer and thus the financial burden on the project depends on the length of time the staff member has been employed and is equal to at least six and no more than twelve weeks’ full pay and four weeks’ half pay. After that, staff members are entitled to a sickness benefit from the health insurance funds. The human resources department of the research institution/the payroll office is to be informed. During the period of illness, an additional application can be submitted to the FWF, if necessary.

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