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Caregivers – know your rights!

Almost 70,000 migrant caregivers work in Israel and care for older persons and people with disabilities. They usually come from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, about a third from the Philippines. Caregivers in Israel work unreasonable long hours, their salary is often reduced by unjust deductions and fines, and their right to a family and to romantic relationships is severely limited by law.

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Who we help

KLO helps migrant caregivers from around the world, primarily from South and Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. The largest number of caregivers (roughly a third) come from the Philippines.

Problems Faced by Workers

Caregivers report a variety of infringements of their rights, starting with the recruitment process in their home country in which they are often required to pay high brokerage fees (thousands of dollars) in order to work in Israel. The recruitment fees they incur, combined with strict regulations on changing employers, make caregivers reluctant to report problems or try to change positions for fear of losing their visa and thus access to employment.

Their vulnerability is deepened by the fact that they live in private homes with their patient and have few safeguards for their privacy and well-being. Working round the clock, six days a week (many times seven) they are the primary caretaker for their patient. Family members can start to view a caregiver as “family,” which can lead to problematic situations that erode a caregiver’s privacy and labor rights and make it harder for caregivers to report labor rights violations. Language and cultural barriers further compound this situation. At the same time, caregivers face restrictions on their own right to family life. They are not allowed to bring their children with them to Israel, and if they give birth here, their children must return to the parent’s home country within a prescribed period of time. State regulations also prohibit caregivers from forming romantic relationships with other migrant workers.

Common labor rights violations we often see with caregivers include the non-payment or partial-payment of salary and benefits, difficulty accessing maternity leave and time off in their home countries, unjust deductions and fines from their deposit accounts, lack of access to proper healthcare services if they lose their ability to work, visa renewal problems in cases of false complaints from employers, sexual harassment or sexual assault and trafficking.

KLO in Action

Informing Workers About Their Rights

KLO helps foster a sense of community and empowerment among caregivers through our two Facebook pages, one in English and one in Russian, with over 55,000 followers. These pages offer a forum for individuals to obtain critical information about their labor rights as well as governmental policies and regulations relevant to them. In addition to Facebook, KLO offers a variety of ways for caregivers to access information on their labor rights, including our website, email, WhatsApp, and the KLO hotline. KLO also publishes brochures on caregiver labor rights in seven different languages online and as a hard copy.

Individual Assistance

KLO provides support to caregivers online as well as via weekly, in-person reception hours in Haifa and Tel Aviv. Providing individual assistance to caregivers, returning illegally withheld wages and benefits. KLO filed various complaints in court addressing non-payment of wages, firing during pregnancy, violence in the workplace, sexual harassment among other labor violations. In 2019 alone KLO returned over 20,200,000 ILS in illegally withheld wages and benefits to caregivers.

Advocacy Work

Promoting bilateral agreements. KLO’s twelve-year-long petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) against brokerage fees in the caregiving sector was successfully resolved by the HCJ in December 2018, paving the way for bilateral agreements to become the standard in caregiving. Agreements have been reached with the Philippines for home-based caregivers and with Georgia and Nepal for elder care homes. The first caregivers contracted under bilateral agreements are slated to arrive in Israel in 2021. This shift is particularly important in addressing exorbitant brokerage fees paid by caregivers that bind them to employers for the first year or two of employment in Israel and contribute to conditions of exploitation and modern-day slavery.

Advocating against garnishing deposit accounts. The state regularly garnishes the deposit accounts of migrant workers who overstay their visas, even for legitimate reasons. KLO submitted a district court petition in July 2019 against this practice, arguing that workers have a right to the social benefits they have earned.

Advocating for access to healthcare. Since 2006, KLO has monitored an HCJ petition to ensure that healthcare arrangements of migrant workers more closely resemble those of Israeli citizens as ruled by the court in 2014. As a result, those caregivers who have worked in Israel 10 years or more and lose their ability to work for at least 90 days are now eligible for a one-time payment by their health insurance company after they leave Israel. We continue to advocate for additional healthcare coverage under the petition.

Improving the quality of life. KLO advocates on behalf of hundreds of individual caregivers each year; helping them access maternity leave, return home to give birth, visit families at home in emergency situations, and travel home for needed medical procedures, among other issues.

Mainstreaming labor rights. KLO advocates with governmental bodies responsible for the oversight of caregiver employment in Israel, such as the Ministry of the Interior, including PIBA, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labor, the Commissioner for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the National Anti-Trafficking Coordination Unit at the Ministry of Justice, the Commissioner of Labor Rights of Foreign Workers within the Ministry of Labor and the Public Defender’s Office. We regularly field questions from employers and manpower companies regarding the rights of caregivers as well as from community activists and NGOs.

Media advocacy. KLO actively reaches out to the media, contributing to seven articles specifically on caregivers and several other articles on migrant workers in Israel. KLO helps to highlight the many labor rights violations faced by caregivers, particularly their vulnerability to sexual assault and harassment on the job and the lack of policies to address this issue.