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Artificial intelligence (AI) systems facilitate work, but harbor risks of liability, penalties, and reputational damage. If companies use AI, they are subject to a number of obligations; this is particularly true for the HR department. Thus, we recommend that HR managers insist on implementing the following basic principles when it comes to AI.

Email is the central means of communication in business organizations. Mailboxes are a valuable source of information, particularly in the event of termination of employment relationships or suspected breaches of duty. However, access to emails is restricted and requires careful consideration of the interests of both employer and employee on a case-by-case basis.

The Austrian National Council has passed a new legislation implementing the EU Directive on Transparent Working Conditions (Directive EU 2019/1152). The legislation is expected to come into force by the end of March 2024. The new law provides for changes to the minimum content of service notes and employment contracts, the right to multiple employment, and training costs.

“All information about employees!” In practice, this is what works councils often request from employers. Works councils have a legitimate interest in being involved in HR developments. However, personal employee data is usually a taboo for the works council. Sharing more information than necessary with the works council may result in severe consequences for companies.

Most European countries have already implemented the EU Whistleblower Directive into national laws. Now, companies across Europe are challenged to implement a whistleblowing system in their subsidiaries, that fully complies with the new national whistleblowing laws. Failure to do so may have highly negative implications for companies, their directors and their employees.

Enhancing flexibility: Austria has introduced the flexible company (Flexible Kapitalgesellschaft, “FlexCo”) as a new type of legal entity. After years of efforts to make its corporate law landscape more attractive to founders and venture capital investors, the Austrian legislature enacted a legislative package in December 2023. It will become effective as of 1 January 2024.

This legal alert aims to summarize the main characteristics of the FlexCo and its differences from the commonly used limited-liability company (GmbH). The conclusion outlines considerations to take into account when deciding whether to incorporate in Austria in the legal form of the FlexCo instead of the GmbH.

On 20 July 2023, the Austrian National Council passed a significant increase in penalties for the violation of business and trade secrets. This was necessary due to a significant increase in secrecy violations.
Business and trade secrets are information of high commercial value. Therefore, business and trade secrets are usually protected by comprehensive confidentiality agreements.

On 22 March 2023, the European Commission tabled a proposal for a Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims.
The proposal aims to harmonize the evaluation and monitoring of voluntary environmental claims – often referred to as “green claims” – towards EU consumers and control the proliferation of public and private environmental labels. Complementing the March 2022 proposal for a Directive on empowering consumers for the green transition as a lex specialis by providing more specific requirements on the substantiation, communication and verification of green claims, it contributes to the fight against “greenwashing”.

On 1 February 2023, the Austrian National Council passed the so-called Whistleblower Protection Act (HinweisgeberInnenschutzgesetz). This law regulates a set of obligations for companies in relation to whistleblowing, with the setup of an internal “whistle-blowing system” a priority. This new law will come into force shortly — following a formal confirmation by the Federal Council of Austria, which is still pending. The Austrian legislator is finally implementing the requirements of the EU Whistleblower Directive, although with a delay of more than a year.