Corona help - the pitfalls of controlling short-time work

According to Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP), there have been 7.072 operational controls in the Corona short-time work, which led to 3.816 notifications of deviations from the funding applications to the Public Employment Service (AMS) and the construction workers' leave and severance fund (BUAK). Only 230 advertisements remained. Only a good fifth of the establishments checked in eleven months focused on short-time work controls.

This is reported by the “Standard” today with reference to a parliamentary question from NEOS. The reasons for the low density of controls are, on the one hand, the insufficient staffing of the financial police. According to information from the Ministry of Finance, the number of employees in the operational team at the financial police fell from 2015 in 460 to 388 in 2021.

On the other hand, the authorities are hindering the flexible conditions under which short-time working assistance is granted. “Either we are too late or too early,” it says according to the “standard” of the financial police. There are two criteria that are decisive for tracking down subsidy misuse: missing or verifiably incorrect records of working hours and the final invoice, which is only submitted to the AMS after a short-time working period and is the basis for the payment of the subsidy. The offense is only realized when the final account has been submitted to the AMS, until then companies can correct any errors or withdraw the funding application or simply not submit a final account to the AMS.

Ministry of Finance: controls are preventive

The Ministry of Finance referred today to the APA about the preventive effect of the controls, which have been continuously, nationwide and successfully maintained - especially in construction, where there are the most problems. This also made it clear to those employers who might want to act dishonestly that AMS and BUAK are keeping an eye on them (and therefore no illegal short-time work has been registered). Incidentally, 737 other violations were found during the short-time inspections.

Regarding the number of employees, it was said that a tender was currently running, the aim was to get back to the original 460 employees. Today Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) thanked the women and men of the financial police for their “valuable work”.

Paid out 6,4 billion euros for short-time work by February

Short-time work was also the subject of the debate in the Social Committee yesterday. By the end of February, over 6,4 billion euros had been paid out for Covid-19 short-time work. Overall, the budget - including the outstanding commitments - was around 10,77 billion euros at the end of February. 1,25 million people were on short-time work at least once, the proportion of women was 43,8 percent. The goods production, retail, and accommodation and catering sectors were hardest hit during the entire period of the pandemic. A total of 116.567 companies booked short-time working assistance.

In the Social Committee, Labor Minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) described short-time working as the most important crisis instrument from the labor market perspective. Phase 4 of the short-time work will run until the end of June. There are already good talks with the social partners about a continuation in phase 5. From the point of view of the labor minister, this must be substantially different from the previous short-time work. (apa)