February 26, 2019 / 3:27 PM / a month ago

Austria waters down Easter holiday plan after public outcry

VIENNA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Austria watered down on Tuesday plans for a Good Friday public holiday intended to comply with a ruling by the European Union’s top court after a previous effort was stymied by public opinion.

Good Friday is not a public holiday in the mainly Roman Catholic country, though Protestants and members of other smaller denominations have been entitled to a day off and to compensation if they have to work. The EU’s Court of Justice found that to be discriminatory.

Seeking to comply with that ruling, Austria’s ruling coalition said the second half of Good Friday would be a holiday for all, but that compromise was roundly ridiculed as an unsatisfactory fudge.

Protestant and Catholic leaders said the day off should be kept for those who were already entitled to it. Unions and the opposition Social Democrats had called for a full public holiday on top of the existing 13, already generous by EU standards. Business groups said an extra day off would be too costly.

“We have jointly decided to go a step further and create a better solution: a ‘personal holiday’ enabling the practice of (one’s own) religion,” the Austrian cabinet’s policy coordinators said in a joint statement.

The personal day will not be a public holiday in the usual sense since it will be deducted from each person’s holiday allowance. But if an employee has given three months’ notice of their personal day and their employer requires them to work, they are entitled to compensation as on a public holiday.

“This solution creates clarity and legal certainty for all, as well as fairness and equal treatment as required by the ECJ ruling,” the coordinators said. (Reporting by Francois Murphy Editing by Gareth Jones)

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