As combat operations continue in Gaza, there have been several developments affecting the workplace, employee rights, and employer obligations in Israel.

Following the broad callup of reserve units during the war and the effect this can have on household management, a collective agreement was signed in February 2024 between the Presidency of the Business Organizations and the Histadrut trade union. The agreement is effective from the start of the war, 7 October 2023, through 31 December 2024. 

This agreement was extended through an order of the Minister of Labour on 5 March 2024, such that it applies to all employers and employees in the general economy (apart from public sector employers and employees, who are covered by a separate collective agreement on the same matter). The Extension Order includes a series of significant points.  

Key details

Limitation on Dismissal of Employees who Performed Reserve Service

Under the Order, an employee who performed reserve service for sixty or more days while the Order was in effect is protected from dismissal for a period of sixty days after his or her reserve duty ends (as opposed to the thirty days otherwise required by law). An employer who wishes to dismiss such an employee before the sixty-day protected period has elapsed must receive a permit to do so.

Additional Days of Absence for Spouses of Reservists

Under the Extension Order, spouses of reservists are entitled to paid days of absence over and above the legal entitlement, based on the number of days of reserve duty performed by their spouse, up to a maximum of eight additional days.  

Eligibility to this right is reserved for the spouse of a person serving in the reserves, where:  

  • the couple has at least one child under the age of 14, or a child up to the age of 18 suffering from a malignant illness or undergoing dialysis treatment,
  • the spouse of the reservist is the sole caregiver for a disabled relative; or  
  • the reservist or the spouse has a parent who is ill as defined in the law dealing with absence due to a parent’s illness. 

The days of absence can be used for the supervision and care of a child or relative who fits one of the above categories; as an extension of a Birth and Parenting Period (maternity leave); for required household management and maintenance tasks which can only be carried out during work hours; or for other reasons requiring an absence, as coordinated with the employer. 

Absences allowed under the Order may be used only while the reservist is serving reserve duty, and not before or after that time. Any such entitlement not used before the end of 2024 cannot be redeemed or accrued after that period.

Accrual of Vacation Days for Reservists

While the Extension Order is in force, an employee who is a reservist may accrue vacation days even without the approval of the employer and add those vacation days to those that he or she will be entitled to for the next two years, provided that certain conditions are met, including that during the period of validity of the Order the employee is absent for at least five consecutive days due to the reserve service.

Payment to Employees who were Absent in the Early Days of the War

The Extension Order also deals with payments to employees who were absent from work during the period between 7 October and 31 October 2023. For this period, the employer must pay the employees’ wages, including social benefits, for days of absence, so long as at least one of the following conditions are met: 

  • The employee lives in a locality that was evacuated as a result of a government order. 
  • The employee is employed in an educational institution that was closed due to the situation, by official orders. 
  • The employee was absent in order to supervise his or her child (up to the age of 14, or an older child with special needs) due to the closure of educational institutions.  
  • The employee was absent due to an instruction forbidding gatherings. 
  • The employee is disabled and his or her place of work or residence is defined as a ‘designated area’ in the regulations, and the disability precluded being present at such workplace; or the employee was required to care for a relative with a disability (only if no other family member was absent for that purpose). 

The salary to be paid to an eligible employee as a result of an absence during this period is the salary that the employee would have received had he or she worked on those days (without additions such as one-time payments, annual payments, overtime compensation, payments for shifts and standbys, expense reimbursements, tax gross ups, and gifts for holidays). This is subject to a cap of NIS 1,510 per day. Employees who worked for partial days and part-time employees are entitled to partial payment in proportion to their salary.  

General Permit: Breaks During the Workday

On 20 February 2024, the Minister of Labour published a general permit revising the rules regarding breaks during the workday.  

Under usual circumstances, in the course of a workday of six hours or more, an employee must be given breaks totaling at least 45 minutes, including one consecutive break of at least half an hour. There is also an upper limit, in that a break must not exceed three hours in length. 

Under the permit signed by the Minister of Labour, an employee may work intermittently during the workday, even taking a break exceeding three hours. This is intended to allow employees to complete work hours missed due to constraints arising from the absence of their spouse or co-parent due to the state of emergency. 

An employee is entitled to request to work under the rules of this permit if:  

  • his or her spouse or co-parent serves in either regular military or reserve service, 
  • his or her spouse or co-parent is called up to labor service under the law, 
  • the employee is a police officer, prison guard, Security Agency or Mossad employee, or member of an aid or rescue organization, 
  • the employee is a family member of a hostage or missing person; or 
  • the employee or his or her spouse or co-parent were evacuated from their place of residence. 

The employee’s request for non-continuous employment of this type is conditional on the employer’s consent, to ensure that the work output will not be negatively affected, bearing in mind that some forms of work (e.g., work performed in shifts) may not be able to be carried out in this flexible manner. 

Next steps

The Israeli government has taken wide-ranging steps to facilitate military service for workers and ease the burden on their families. Employers will need to implement these steps and remain alert for further directives. 

Written by:

Herzog Fox & Neeman, Israel’s leading law firm