Employee background checks in Pakistan

A Guide to Employee Background Checks in Austria

Hiring in Austria? Learn the steps of running legal employee background checks, and enhance your candidate's hiring and screening process.

Michał Kowalewski
Written by Michał Kowalewski
April 5, 2024

Key takeaways

  1. While not mandatory, background checks are a common practice in Austria, especially for sensitive roles. They require explicit written consent from the candidate before initiating any checks.
  2. Austria adheres strictly to data privacy regulations like the GDPR. Employers can only collect and use information directly relevant to the job and must respect candidate privacy throughout the background check process.
  3. Accessing medical records, conducting discriminatory checks (based on age, gender, etc.), or unrestricted social media screening are illegal or highly restricted in Austria.

While not legally mandated, background checks are valuable for employers seeking to build a trustworthy and qualified workforce in Austria.  This practice is particularly common in finance, healthcare, and IT industries, which require a high degree of responsibility and ethical conduct.

Austria boasts a strong and stable economy, ranking 14th globally in GDP per capita (according to World Bank, 2023).  The country is also a recognized leader in innovation, with a highly skilled workforce.  According to the OECD, Austria ranks 7th in the world for educational attainment, with over 60% of adults holding tertiary education qualifications.  

This combination of economic strength and a well-educated population makes Austria attractive for businesses seeking top talent.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to run an effective and legal employment screening in Austria 
  • What are the common types of employee checks in Austria
  • Step-by-step process of a thorough employee screening
  • What mistakes to avoid when performing a background check in Austria

What should employers know before running background checks in Austria

An employee background check verifies a potential hire’s work history, education, professional qualifications, and any criminal records they might have. It’s particularly beneficial to run before finalizing an employment offer or signing a contract, ensuring the candidate meets the company’s standards and requirements. 

Austria’s legal framework, particularly concerning privacy, is guided by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and local laws such as the Datenschutzgesetz (DSG). The Austrian Data Protection Authority (Datenschutzbehörde) plays a crucial role in overseeing compliance. 

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): This EU regulation establishes the foundation for data privacy protection across Europe. It outlines critical principles like transparency, purpose limitation, and data minimization, which employers conducting background checks in Austria must adhere to
  • Datenschutzgesetz (DSG):  This Austrian national law complements the GDPR. It provides additional details and specific requirements for data processing within Austria, ensuring compliance with the broader European framework and national regulations.
  • Austrian Data Protection Authority (Datenschutzbehörde):  Austria’s independent supervisory authority enforces the GDPR and the DSG. They have the power to investigate complaints, issue fines for non-compliance, and offer guidance to organizations on data protection best practices. This ensures that employers conducting background checks are following the rules.

In Austria, breaches of data protection laws during employee background checks can lead to significant penalties under the GDPR. Lesser offenses might attract fines up to €10 million or 2% of global annual turnover, while more severe violations could see penalties up to €20 million or 4% of worldwide revenue. 

The Austrian Data Protection Authority rigorously enforces these rules, ensuring strict compliance with GDPR and national privacy regulations. Though specific penalties related to background checks aren’t disclosed, the authority’s active role underscores its dedication to safeguarding personal data.

Are background checks legal in Austria?

Yes, background checks are legal in Austria, but they are subject to specific regulations and restrictions to ensure they are conducted fairly and respect candidates’ privacy rights. 

Employers must obtain explicit consent from candidates before conducting background checks, and there is a limited scope of information they can legally access and use for employment decisions. Although not specified in the law, written consent is recommended for documentation and compliance. 

What types of background checks are illegal in Austria?

Certain background checks are considered illegal or highly restricted in Austria. Global employers looking to hire in Austria should be cautious when checking the following practices:

  • Medical records check: Accessing a candidate’s medical history without explicit consent is a big no-no in Austria. Employers cannot request or require medical information during background checks unless it’s strictly job-related (e.g., commercial driver requiring a clean health record)
  • Discriminatory checks: Any background checks that could lead to discrimination based on protected characteristics are illegal. This includes checks based on a candidate’s age, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.
  • Unrestricted social media screening: While not explicitly prohibited, social media screening requires caution in Austria. Employers cannot make hiring decisions solely based on a candidate’s personal social media activity. If social media review is deemed necessary, obtaining written consent and focusing on job-related aspects is best, avoiding personal life details.


Violating data privacy laws during employee background checks in Austria can lead to hefty fines under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Austria’s national data protection laws.

The GDPR itself operates with a two-tier system for fines. Similar to Poland, lesser background check offenses could result in penalties reaching €10 million or 2% of a company’s global annual revenue (whichever is higher). More severe violations, however, can be penalized much more harshly, with fines reaching €20 million or 4% of the company’s global annual revenue (again, whichever is higher).

While Austria hasn’t issued a public case related to background checks, the country’s data protection authority, the Datenschutzbehörde, actively enforces the GDPR and national regulations.

Common background check industries in Austria

In Austria, specific industries often require thorough background checks due to the nature of their roles and the level of responsibility involved. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Finance: Ensuring the reliability and integrity of financial professionals is critical. This often includes checks on credit history and professional certifications to mitigate risks of fraud and ensure regulatory compliance.
  • Healthcare: Given the direct impact on patient safety and care, it’s standard to verify professional licenses and review criminal records to maintain high standards of care and trust
  • Education: The safety and well-being of students are paramount, making background checks on criminal history and professional qualifications essential for anyone working directly with children and young adults
  • Government: Positions within the public sector can be influential and sensitive, often necessitating a comprehensive review of candidates’ backgrounds to ensure security and integrity

Types of employee background checks in Austria

 Effective background checks in Austria focus on critical areas that assess a candidate’s qualifications. Understanding these areas allows employers to design screening processes that meet both the specific needs of the job and relevant legal requirements.

Type of Check Common in Austria Reason
Criminal record check Common Essential for positions of trust or involving vulnerable populations 
Employment history verification  Common Confirms previous employment and job performance
Educational verification Common Confirms the validity of academic credentials claimed by the candidate
Credit history check Less common    Generally used for roles that involve financial responsibilities, subject to consent and relevance. 
Health screening Less common Subject to strict legal restrictions; relevant only if it directly pertains to job requirements
Social media screening Less common Used selectively due to privacy concerns and the relevance of the information to job performance

Background check mistakes to avoid in Austria

Whether you’re hiring employees or contractors in Austria, there are a few things you shouldn’t do as an employer when it comes to background checks:

  • Neglecting candidate consent: Getting the candidate’s written okay is crucial before starting any background checks in Austria. This ensures the process respects their privacy and complies with laws like the GDPR​ (DLA Piper Intelligence)​​ (Data Privacy Manager)
  • Overstepping legal boundaries: Stick to checks directly linked to the job’s requirements and respect the candidate’s privacy. In Austria, certain checks, like those on education and references, are allowed with the candidate’s consent, highlighting the importance of relevance and privacy​ (DLA Piper Intelligence)​
  • Failure to communicate: Always be upfront with candidates about why you’re doing the checks and what you’re looking for. Let them know they can see and discuss the results, which helps keep the process open and fair​ (GoodHire)​
  • Ignoring data retention limits: Employers should be mindful of how long they keep background check information. Holding onto such data longer than necessary could breach GDPR guidelines, emphasizing minimizing data storage duration to what’s strictly required.​

Step-by-step guide to employee background checks in Austria

Background checks are standard across various industries in Austria, especially in sectors where trust, integrity, and safety are most important. 

  1. Obtain written consent: Before initiating any checks, secure explicit permission from the candidate in writing
  2. Define the scope: Clearly outline which background checks will be performed, ensuring they are relevant to the job.
  3. Use authorized channels: Perform checks through legally recognized and authorized channels, such as the Austrian police, for criminal record checks
  4. Verify academic credentials: Contact educational institutions directly or use verified services to check the authenticity of academic qualifications
  5. Check employment history: Confirm previous employment details directly with former employers, focusing on roles relevant to the new position
  6. Assess professional licenses: For roles requiring specific certifications or licenses, verify their validity with the issuing authorities
  7. Conduct reference checks: Reach out to provided references, preparing questions that relate directly to the job’s competencies
  8. Screen social media and online presence: If relevant and consented to, review the candidate’s public online presence for any potential red flags
  9. Check credit history (if applicable): Only for roles directly related to financial responsibilities and with explicit consent, consider conducting a credit check
  10. Document and communicate: Keep detailed records of the background check process and communicate transparently with the candidate about any concerns or findings

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