Developments in the field of labour law and labour relations are ceaseless. In this update, we present you with the latest key developments regarding the shortening of the work week, new arrangements relating to night work, the extension of paid Maternity Leave (the name of which was recently changed to the "Birth and Parenting Period") and the rules for its partial use by the mother's spouse1.

Signed but not yet in effect: a collective agreement regarding the shortening of the work week and changes governing night work

On 29 March 2017 a new general collective agreement was signed for the shortening of the work week in the market (the "Agreement"). The Agreement was signed by the Presidium of Business Organisations (which includes the Manufacturers' Association and a list of bodies representing various employers in the commercial sector) and the New General Workers' Union (the Histadrut).

The main provisions regarding the shortening of the work week in the market:

  1. The length of the work week is to be shortened by one hour, from 43 working hours per week to 42 hours.
  2. The shortening of the work week will be effected through the reduction of one hour's work on a specified day of the week. The exact day of the week will be based on the demands of work and, to the extent possible, taking into consideration employee requests and their needs.
  3. Employees asked to work during the "deducted" hour due to work needs will be paid in accordance with the overtime provisions for this hour.
  4. The hourly wage will be calculated on the basis of 182 working hours per month (rather than the current calculation which is based on 186 hours per month).
  5. Where work is carried out in shifts, the employer may set the hours for each shift and the shift schedule based on work needs and in a manner suitable for the shortening of the work week.
  6. The provisions of the Agreement do not detract from existing beneficial agreements and arrangements in various workplaces and do not apply to those who are exempt from the Hours of Work and Rest Law, 5711-1951 (the "Law").

It is further provided that the parties should conduct negotiations between themselves in order to try to achieve an alternative arrangement for shortening the work week through extending the weekend to include intermittent Sundays. To the extent that this is achieved, it will replace the aforementioned agreements.

The main provisions regarding night work:

Night work under the Law is work of which at least two hours are carried out between ten at night and six in the morning. Presently, Section 22 of the Law provides that in a factory where employees work in shifts, an employee cannot carry out night work for more than one week out of a three week period.

According to the arrangement –

  1. Night work will be allowed for an accumulative period of seven out of 14 days.
  2. The total permissible number of working hours in a day is 12 hours.
  3. The total permissible number of overtime hours in an ordinary working week is 16 hours.
  4. The total permissible number of overtime hours in a week in which night work is carried out is the difference in hours between the length of the night shift and 12 hours, multiplied by five working days.

It should be noted that although the provisions governing the limit on daily hours and weekly overtime hours are found in the chapter of the Agreement relating to night work, it appears that they are generally applicable, including to workplaces where shift work is not carried out.

The conditions for the Agreement taking effect:

The parties to the Agreement are to approach the Minister of Labour, Welfare, and Social Services in order to obtain approval to the arrangements set out in the Agreement, pursuant to his authority under law, or for him to act to change the general authorisations for working overtime hours previously given. Similarly, the parties may approach the Minister with an application for the issuance of an extension order to apply the provisions of the Agreement to all employees and employers in the market.

The provisions of the Agreement will take effect upon the later of the Minister giving the necessary approvals and the publication of the extension order to the entire market. The validity of the provisions regarding the shortening of the work week are also contingent upon not reaching an alternate arrangement on the matter by 1 July 2017.

The above changes have indeed not yet taken effect. However, we recommend that employers familiarise themselves with the arrangements and prepare for issues that might arise (for example, the "short day", the limit on overtime hours, and night work – if relevant). Additionally, we recommend that employers consider how to implement the changes, in particular with regard to the terms of their employment agreements and other binding arrangements in the workplace.

Extension of maternity leave and expanding the rights of the spouse of the new mother

A new amendment to the Employment of Women Law, 5714-1954 ("Employment of Women Law") and the National Insurance Law [Consolidated Version], 5755-1995, was recently passed, primarily regarding the extension of paid maternity leave by an additional week.

Extension of paid maternity leave:

The period of paid maternity leave has been extended from 14 to 15 weeks. It should be emphasised that this is with respect to the period of paid leave. The total period of leave for an employee having at least one year's service, remains unchanged at 26 weeks.

Use of maternity leave by the spouse:

In addition to the extension of the period of paid maternity leave, the amendment is intended to encourage the mother's spouse to take maternity leave as well. In this regard -

  1. The entitlement to maternity leave has been extended to a spouse whose wife (or partner) works independently.
  2. Following the amendment, the spouse is entitled to seven days' maternity leave during the same period as the mother's maternity leave (this is on account of the maternity pay to which the mother is entitled for the same period). These days are in addition to the spouse's entitlement to sick days under the Sick Pay Law (Absence Due to Spouse's Pregnancy and Childbirth), 5761-2000.
  3. The minimum period of leave which the spouse can take in order to be eligible for paid leave has been shortened from 21 days to only seven days.

Under the amendment, women who have commenced maternity leave as of 1 January 2017 are already entitled to 15 weeks of paid maternity leave. The payment will be made in practice from 1 June 2017. These changes join a series of amendments to the Employment of Women Law, as explained in our previous update. They form further examples of the general trend highlighted in our 2016 Client Update Summary regarding the transition to joint parenting rights and sharing the burden of childcare between both parents.