Labour & Employment | Client Update – General Lockdown
25 September 2020
Dear Clients and Colleagues,
An amendment to the Special Authorities to Handle Covid-19 Regulations (Temporary Order) (Restriction of Activities), 2020, shall enter into effect today, September 25, 2020, at 14:00. The Amendment imposes a second lockdown on all citizens of the State of Israel, and sets out strict instructions regarding any physical presence or activity in the public arena, for a period of two weeks.
In addition to the various restrictions on presence in the public arena, and participation in activities (such as prayers and protests), further significant restrictions shall apply during the lockdown, concerning the ability to open many workplaces.
In this update, we will provide brief, initial responses to questions regarding the implications of the lockdown on workplaces. It is important to note that the amendment to the Regulations still requires the approval of the Knesset. Accordingly, our responses below are based on the draft Amendment, as approved by the government. Insofar as any relevant changes are ultimately adopted, we will provide a separate update.
Which Workplaces are Permitted to Operate During the Lockdown?
As opposed to the situation during the previous lockdown (in March-April), during which, most workplaces were permitted to conduct a form of routine work, albeit at a limited scope, the current Amendment states that, in general, employees are not permitted to attend the workplace.
However, similarly to the previous lockdown, alongside this general rule, there are several exceptions, according to which it will be possible to work from workplaces that are perceived as essential. Essential workplaces are primarily those that act in one of the fields stated in the list already published within the Second Appendix to the Special Authorities to Handle Covid-19 Regulations (Temporary Order) (Restriction of Activities in the Workplace), 2020, which was even slightly broadened within the current Regulations. Among the fields included in the Appendix to the Regulation, are:
- The financial Sector;
- Energy and Water;
- Food and Drinks;
- Moving, storing and Custom Clearance Services;
- Toiletries, Cleaning and Cosmetics;
- Ports and Shipping;
- Media / Communications;
- Social Services;
- Environmental Protection;
- Building Maintenance, Security and Guarding and Telephone Service Centers;
- Health Services (including research and development, production, import, marketing and supply of medical equipment and medication), Optics and Pharma;
- Places that provide services and products in the field of computing, including support services, maintenance and cyber protection (so long as the work cannot be performed remotely);
- Workplaces that support the field of construction and infrastructure;
- Preferred Enterprises, as defined in Section 51 of the Law for Encouragement of Capital Investments, 1959;
- Workplaces that provide a service or product that is required for the normal operations of workplaces in the fields included in the Appendix to the Regulations;
Only employees whose work is necessary in order to provide the service or product at the workplaces detailed above, will be permitted to attend the workplace.The Amendment to the Regulations sets out further workplaces that will be permitted to carry on their activities, including:
- Enterprises providing essential services, as defined in the Emergency Employment Services Law, 1967.
- Workplaces that have a special permit, to employ employees during rest hours, according to Section 12 of the Hours of Work and Rest Law, 1951, which was granted to avoid harming the work process (in relation to these workplaces, the attendance shall be as follows – the number of employees in relation to which the permit was granted, or 30% or the workforce, the higher of the two).
- Construction and Infrastructure work, without gatherings in closed structures.
- Security Industry and Enterprises supporting security (as defined in the Regulations) – 60% of the workforce.
- Companies that meet requirements 1 and 2 of the definition of a “Preferred Technological Enterprise” according to the Law for Encouragement of Capital Investments, 1959, for the purpose of maintaining and operating the company’s systems.
- Any workplace – if the employee’s entry is required in order to conduct maintenance work or repair any defects, which are urgently required in order to maintain the workplace; perform deliveries; pay salaries; or any other employee whose attendance is required for the continued functional activity of the workplace; and, coming into the workplace in order to collect equipment or perform work in order to provide an essential service to a client, including enabling other employees to work from home.
In order to examine whether the workplace is included in the scope of one of the above alternatives, which enable continued activity during the lockdown, we recommend seeking specific advice.
How should Work Proceed at Workplaces that are Permitted to Open During the Lockdown?
(Applicable as of August 11, 2020)
Employers will be required to continue to act in accordance with the requirements set out in the Regulations regarding the restrictions on activity in workplaces, as detailed in our update from August 12, in Hebrew, as follows:
- The employer must appoint a Coronavirus Officer who will be responsible for enforcing the relevant regulatory requirements.
- The CEO and Coronavirus Officer must sign a declaration in the form described in the appendix to the regulations.
- The employer must notify employees about the mandatory rules in the workplace (as detailed below) by placing a sign in a prominent location.
- Maintain social distancing of 2 meters between individuals, to the extent possible.
- Assign, to the extent possible, personal equipment for each employee (e.g., keyboard, mouse, landline phone, etc.) and, to the extent this is not possible, meticulously disinfect equipment before transferring it for use from one employee to another.
- For workplaces with employees operating in shifts – maintain the same group of employees together on a shift, to the extent possible.
- Arrange for non-invasive body temperature checks, and prohibit anyone with a body temperature of 38°C or above from entering the workplace.
- In an office setting – to the extent possible, each employee should sit in a fixed work-location with fixed equipment. In any room, employees must be 2 meters apart, unless a partition exists to prevent the transmission of airborne particles. Up to 10 people may participate in a professional meeting (including individuals who do not work at the office), provided (i) that the employer or the appointee has determined that the meeting could not be held virtually; (ii) that participants maintain social distancing of at least 2 meters or that there are partitions to prevent the transmission of airborne particles; and (iii) that no food is served. We note that certain workplaces have been exempted from the requirement to maintain a social distance of 2 meters between individuals in the same room (absent a partition). The workplaces exempted from the above rule are those that operate in one of the industries or fields of activity listed in the Second Appendix to the Regulations (including, among other things, financial institutions and companies involved in energy, water, food and beverage, agriculture, toiletries, cleaning and cosmetics, and communications), as well as enterprises providing essential services (aside from government entities or corporations.
- To the extent possible, each employee must eat or drink in his or her regular work-location.
- If, in the employer’s determination, an employee can perform his or her work from home, the employer must arrange for a format to permit such work-from-home.
- If the premises has an elevator – there must be a sign stating that the elevator can be used only up to half of the usual occupancy limit of the elevator (based on the manufacturer specifications).
- Employers must instruct employees to observe suitable hygiene standards, including hand-washing. Beyond these guidelines, employer should instruct employees about the obligation to wear face-masks, which remains unchanged. As a reminder, this obligation also applies in the workplace, except in certain cases, such as, where two employees permanently work in the same room at the workplace, provided they maintain a 2 meter distance from one another, or where employees occupy an open space booth, which has a partition, at least 1.2-meters high, provided they are seated when without the mask.
3. As previously noted, the new Regulations on the Restriction of Activities in the Workplace, as published, do not include provisions about questioning employees before they enter the workplace.
Employers that permit entry and attendance of employees in violation of the Regulations will be exposed to a sanction of six months imprisonment or a fine.
Employment Solutions During the Lockdown
The period of lockdown creates numerous problems for the industries that have shut-down, as well as those that are permitted to continue to work, alongside the education system that has shut-down. Furthermore, the comprehensive medical certificate that applied to all individuals who were required to be in quarantine is scheduled to expire shortly. This situation requires a new examination of flexible solutions, in an attempt to maintain occupational and economic continuity during the lockdown and thereafter. Among other things, employers may examine options of a forced vacation (subject to legal limitations), work from home, part time work, etc. We would be happy to assist and provide any specific advice in this respect.
As to unpaid leave, the entitlement to unpaid leave benefits is currently subject to the period of unpaid leave lasting at least 14 days. In relation to employees who had previously been placed on unpaid leave during the “first wave” of the Covid-19 crisis, and are now being placed on unpaid leave again, the employer must provide the National Insurance Institute with an online form regarding the cessation of work. In such case, there is no need to submit the employee salary details form, which is required when placing an employee on an initial period of unpaid leave.
We are here to offer any assistance and advice in relation to questions or clarifications that may be required, also during the period of lockdown. We will, of course, continue to issue updates in relation to any relevant developments.
The Labour and Employment Department
Herzog Fox & Neeman