Israel: Imposing Unpaid Leave on Employees Due to the Spread of Coronavirus
Because of the coronavirus, many employers have been forced to consider minimizing expenses. The following alternatives are being explored: reducing the scope of employment, lowering salaries, utilizing any available leave days, imposing unpaid leave on employees, reducing manpower, and conducting layoffs.
To our clients looking to take such steps, we wish to remind you that:
- Prior to any change in employment conditions, including reducing the scope of employment or lowering salary, hearings must be held with employees.
- Imposing concentrated leave on employees exceeding seven consecutive days is contingent upon at least 14 days’ advance notice. It should be emphasized that in circumstances in which the employee does not have available leave days, the employer must shoulder the employee’s pay during the concentrated leave.
- Imposing unpaid leave on an employee, for an unlimited period of time, may be considered termination.
- It is possible, and indeed recommended, to come to an agreement in writing with employees regarding all aspects of the unpaid leave, including the length of the leave.
- It is important to be transparent with the employees, to explain the need for taking the above steps, and to document the process.
In addition, we wish to update you that in light of the spread of Coronavirus, the National Insurance Institute of Israel and the Employment Service issued an official guideline on March 10, 2020, whereby employees in unpaid leave due to the Coronavirus will be entitled to unemployment benefits under the following conditions:
- The unpaid leave was initiated by the employer.
- The unpaid leave period is for at least 30 days.
- The employee did not receive salary substitutes during this period.
Note that in accordance with the guideline, it is unnecessary for employees to make use of all of their leave days before the unpaid leave in order to be entitled to unemployment benefits.
Also, we wish to remind you that according to the Israeli Ministry of Health’s instructions as of March 9, 2020, any employee who entered Israel from any destination, or an employee who was in close contact (of less than two meters for at least 15 minutes) with a coronavirus patient, is required to remain in self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. Subject to providing a simple written declaration, such employees are entitled to sick leave from their employer (provided they have accumulated sick leave). These employees are not required to provide a medical certificate. If such employees are not ill, the employer may ask them to telecommute. The employees will be entitled to their regular wage for telecommuting. Employees may refuse to telecommute, in which case they will be entitled to sick leave.
Finally, at least for the time being, we wish to update you that as of March 9, 2020, absence from work due to the home quarantine of a child shall entitle an employee to paid sick leave.