The government of Israel issued a countrywide emergency order subsequent to the attack on 7 October 2023, imposing “special conditions” that will remain in effect until further notice.

This state of emergency includes:

  • calling up military reservist employees for active duty,
  • restricting workers’ presence in workplaces without functioning shelters nearby, and
  • closing educational institutions, which will impact all employees with children.

This complex situation raises many issues affecting employers, employees, and the workplace in general.

Key details

Employee protections and payment of wages

In times of emergency, Israeli law prohibits the firing of an employee who is absent from work due to compliance with instructions arising from “special conditions” implemented by the Minister of Defense. This includes employees (1) who need to be absent from work to care for their children during school closures, (2) who need to supervise a child under the age of 14 (or 21 if there are special needs) who lives with them, or (3) who cannot report to work because the workplace has been closed for lack of a nearby functioning shelter.

Although the law does not regulate an employer’s obligation to pay wages to the affected employees, an employer may choose to do so or to make other arrangements, such as allowing work from home, making advance payments, or allowing the use of accrued annual leave, based on the employer’s industry and workplace needs. In past emergency situations, collective agreements have been entered into retroactively and extension orders issued that entitled employees to payment for the periods of absence, with the state subsequently compensating employers.

Employers providing essential services to the public

Israeli legislation allows employers to require employees to be present at the workplace if the employer has been declared an essential organization (this includes hospitals, the security sector, etc.). To this end, the Minister of Labour has signed an order enabling employers to require employees to be present at workplaces that provide essential services to the public.

A general permit allowing employees to work up to 14 hours per day, subject to the employee’s consent and with a limit of 37 overtime hours per week, has been given for employment in the security sector for the entire period that the emergency order remains in effect.

Military leave

Most reservist employees working in Israel and abroad have been called up for active duty for an unlimited period, as the duration of the state of emergency has not been specified by the Israeli government.

Israeli reservist employees working in Israel 

Israeli legislation provides that reservist employees may be called up for up to 42 days per year and between 54 to 84 days in a three-year period (depending on their rank).  However, during a state of emergency, there is no legal limitation regarding the military leave duration. Israeli employers are required to pay employees on military leave their regular salary and benefits. Israeli employers are reimbursed up to NIS 1,582.17 per day by the Israeli National Insurance Institute. If the employee’s salary is lower than the cap, employers must forward the difference to the employee.

Spouses of Israeli reservist employees working in Israel 

Full-time employees whose spouses must take a military leave for a period greater than 5 days are entitled to one paid hour per day of absence to care for their children below age 13.

Israeli reservist employees working outside Israel

When faced with military leave requests from employees located outside of Israel, employers should follow the statutory requirements of the countries where such individuals are employed as well as any applicable collective bargaining agreement and internal policies.

Next steps

Considering the great complexity of the current situation, employers should work with counsel to ensure compliance with relevant legal norms. Companies employing people in Israel should determine who their reservists are and make appropriate provisions for leave and continued payment of wages.  Employers who apply to the government for reimbursement must determine any amounts payable to an employee whose salary is less than the government reimbursement and forward those amounts to the employee.  Employers should communicate special changes and accommodations to employees in writing (e.g., the ability to work from home). Employers should identify any spouses of reservists deployed for 5 days or more with children under age 13 and offer them leave as required.

In collaboration with:

Orly Gerbi

Partner – Israel

Herzog Fox & Neeman