Client update – Iron Swords
9 October 2023
Dear clients and friends,
The State of Israel is undergoing a very difficult time. We are faced with a complex and challenging reality which also affects the workplace and work routines.
The Minister of Defense has recently signed a declaration, currently applying to the entire State, stating that Special Conditions apply to the homefront, following which the Homefront Command issued various instructions limiting public gatherings and presence in public areas, including at workplaces.
Within that framework, in a number of areas around the country, there is a prohibition on being present at workplaces near which there is no functioning shelter which may be reached within the period of time set by the Home Front Command. It should also be taken into account that educational institutions are currently closed, such that many workers who are parents are forced to remain at home with their children.
The Law for Protection of Workers in Times of Emergency, 2006, prohibits firing an employee who is absent due to compliance with directions stemming from the Special Conditions declared by the State, including absence of an employee who must supervise a child up to the age of 14 (or, in the case of a child with special needs, up to the age of 21) who is living with him.
The law does not regulate the employer’s obligation to pay wages to an employee absent due to circumstances that are justified by the Special Conditions. However, past experience from former emergency situations has taught us that collective agreements are usually retroactively signed, and extension orders issued, entitling employees to payment for the period of absence, with the State compensating the employers.
An employer who wishes to pay wages to employees who are absent from work, or to make other arrangements such as allowing for work from home, making advance payments, or utilizing accumulated paid vacation days (that is, when not required by the agreements and extension orders described in the above paragraph), may generally do so, subject to the particular characteristics of the workplace and to its specific needs.
At the same time, the Work During Emergencies Act, 1967, allows employers to require employees to be present at the workplace if it has been declared an “essential organization”. To this end, the Minister of Labor has signed an order enabling employers to require employees to attend work at workplaces which provide essential services to the public via an order to enlist workers.
A General Permit has been given for employment in the security sector for the entire period of time in which the Special Conditions remain in effect, enabling the employment of employees in that sector for up to 14 hours a day, subject to the employee’s consent and limited to 37 overtime hours per week.
This complex reality raises many issues affecting employers, employees, and the workplace in general, including cases of essential employees who have been called up for reserve military duty; essential employees who must stay at home with their young children; the option of transferring employees to perform tasks in the place of employees who are absent; working from home; voicing political opinions on social media, and others.
In light of the great complexity of the current situation, as well as the sensitivity needed when addressing these issues, we suggest obtaining specific advice regarding these matters. Such advice should take into account the various unique characteristics of each workplace and the legal norms which apply, and will also take into account the current situation of the specific employees and their families.
We are at your service and will be happy to assist with any questions and queries that may arise during these complicated times.
With wishes for quieter days,
Labour & Employment Law Department
Herzog, Fox & Neeman