Since the onset of the war, thousands of male and female workers have reached out to Kav La Oved through various channels seeking to consult about being placed on furlough about having their wages halted by their employers. In a significant number of cases, workers couldn’t reach their workplaces due to the war, and though the law prohibited their dismissal, they went unpaid due to their absence.

Many of these workers, even before the war are already considered vulnerable populations: individuals from the socio-economic periphery earning low wages, and hourly workers in roles that cannot be performed remotely. Their heightened vulnerability exacerbated their hardships during the war.

While the law offers comprehensive protection against dismissal for those unable to access their jobs due to the conflict—such as evacuees displaced from their homes, parents compelled to remain with their children due to school closures, or those barred from work by Home Front Command orders—this protection lacks substance as it fails to ensure the essential aspect of employment: salary.

Though the worker may not have been formally terminated, in practice, they are unemployed.

Despite repeated appeals by civil society organizations in each “round” demanding the establishing of  permanent compensation mechanisms for workers impacted by the war, the Knesset declined to address the legislative gap, opting instead for ad hoc and retrospective payment methods.

Rather than the severity of harm prompting the state to permanently regulate workers’ rights, it has led to a return to a problematic model developed during a prior emergency crisis—the COVID-19 pandemic—where workers were directed to seek unemployment benefits.

Protection against dismissal during wartime

Since the Hamas attack, hundreds of thousands of workers have been unable to report to their jobs due to access restrictions. The law acknowledges circumstances where temporary absence from work is justified and not grounds for dismissal; it even prohibits firing a worker during such absence.

While protections against dismissal were temporarily extended during this war—such as for parents unable to work due to school closures, individuals evacuated from conflict zones, and spouses of reserve soldiers—the existing safeguards for absent workers lack substantive support, rendering them ineffective. This absence of concrete measures fails to provide any tangible benefits to workers during their time away from work.

Given that the workers do not receive any guarantee that they will be reimbursed for days they did not work during the war, vulnerable and underprivileged had to seek and engage in other temporary small jobs risking their lives out of despair to secure income.

For instance, Kav La Oved had discussions with agricultural laborers from Thailand whose wages were based on the hours they worked. Fearing non-payment, they continued working in the open fields without pause.

The failure to promptly regulate workers’ rights and compensate for their absence during emergencies creates a distressing sense of uncertainty for both employees and employers. The delay in reaching a collective agreement, emerging three months after the crisis began, particularly impacted conflict zones in the south and north, resulting in significant losses and a lack of oversight in the broader labor market.

Halit, an evacuee worker from the northern region, found herself residing in a Tiberias hotel for evacuees during the initial months of the war. In March, she relocated with her family to a similar facility in Tel Aviv. However, upon returning to her workplace in the north, Halit discovered it no longer existed. Consequently, her employer placed her on extended leave during the war’s early stages. Eventually, Halit decided to terminate her employment with that employer in pursuit of alternative employment opportunities. Remarkably, Halit’s employer opted against applying for compensation through the salary track. He cited concerns about the demanding process and doubted whether the compensation would sufficiently offset his business losses.

Failure of the Compensation plan in Guaranteeing Wages – The Shattering of the Illusion of Motivating Employers

During the Iron Swords War, an agreement concerning the payment of wages to workers was delayed. However, a compensation scheme for employers was promptly established within one month of the war’s commencement, on 9/11/2023. This legislative arrangement aimed to incentivize employers to pay their workers, but its implementation came too late, as employers had already made decisions regarding wage payments, terminations, or non-payment. Consequently, despite the regulations being enacted, the incentive remained theoretical and did not effectively address the needs of workers.

At the war’s outset, decision-makers acknowledged that the State of Israel would be unable to fully compensate all employers for their workers’ wages, given that most of the country was subjected to rocket fire and instructions from the Home Front Command restricted the opening of many workplaces. As a result, a compensation mechanism was adopted, providing only 75% of the regular salary. In the absence of a requirement to pay wages to workers absent due to the war, many employers opted not to pay and refrained from seeking compensation.

The impact of the policies on particularly vulnerable groups Israel’s labor market

Hourly-Based Workers

Hourly-Based workers are those who are typically paid on an hourly or daily basis, endure abusive employment models even during normal circumstances. They constitute about a quarter of Israel’s labor force and are heavily concentrated in industries such as cleaning, security, sales, construction, and agriculture. These sectors often offer low wages for physically demanding or customer-facing work.

Hourly-based employment structure disproportionately affects already vulnerable populations in Israeli society, including expatriates from the former Soviet Union or Ethiopia (especially adults), Arab citizens, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, migrant workers, and asylum seekers. These individuals face compound challenges due to their employment status, making them more susceptible to economic instability and exploitation.

Hourly-based workers, who are employed through abusive employment models and receive wages on an hourly or daily basis, were disproportionately affected by the war compared to those with regular employment arrangements. This group constitutes approximately a quarter of Israel’s labor market and is heavily represented in industries such as cleaning, security, sales, construction, and agriculture. These sectors rely heavily on hourly-based employment, which often entails low wages for physically demanding or customer-facing work.

These jobs are particularly prevalent among vulnerable populations in Israeli society, including expatriates from the former Soviet Union or Ethiopia (especially adults), Arab citizens, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, migrant workers, and asylum seekers. Many of these individuals are already economically marginalized, and their reliance on hourly-based employment exacerbates their vulnerability during times of crisis such as war.

The state of emergency and the government’s employment policies have exacerbated the vulnerability of hourly-based workers. Since their work often involves physical tasks that require their presence, remote work is not feasible, leaving them with no option but to stop working. Consequently, many workers felt compelled to defy Home Front Command instructions to ensure their wages in real-time or sought alternative sources of income, jeopardizing their original employment agreements. In some cases, workers had to accept unfavorable conditions, such as wage reductions or worsening work conditions, or rely on unemployment benefits to secure income. These challenges were further compounded by the fact that approved agreements only provided a temporary solution, leaving workers uncertain about their financial stability beyond 2023. In the first months of the war, many employers chose not to call their hourly workers to work which  subsequently meant that they lost their employability status and that of course harmed not only their wages but even the possibility for them to to go on sick leave or to receive unemployment benefits.

Despite the evident harm to hourly-based workers, the government dismissed the idea of implementing a flexible severance pay model. Instead, it opted for a binary approach: either employment relations continued with significant reductions in job scope, resulting in diminished wages and social rights, with no compensation from the National Insurance Institute; or the employment relationship was entirely suspended, leading to eligibility for unemployment benefits. In cases where hourly workers were not summoned to work, employers failed to furnish them with the necessary documentation attesting to their eligibility for unemployment benefits—a prerequisite for receiving assistance from the National Insurance Institute.

Workers Over the Age of Retirement

Workers over retirement age, previously employed in various private sector roles, were directly impacted by the war, lacking a proper social safety net for emergencies. This demographic often does not assert their rights, typically seeking assistance from organizations like Kav La Oved, as many are unable to read or write Hebrew.

Moreover, they frequently belong to disadvantaged populations, entering the labor market at an older age and often in insecure jobs. Consequently, they began saving for retirement late and lack sufficient pension savings to sustain themselves post-retirement.

While the state encouraged employers to place workers on sick leave to access unemployment benefits, those beyond retirement age were ineligible. Instead, the state proposed a lesser compensation scheme for them. However, this solution became obsolete with the introduction of a new governmental compensation plan in December 2023, which superseded previous arrangements.

Furthermore, workers in this demographic were compelled to retire during the war without adequate time to prepare or establish support networks. Consequently, their prospects of reintegration into the labor market, unlike those laid off during the war, are exceedingly slim.

Yulia, employed as a cashier at a prominent supermarket in the south, received unexpected news from her employers—she would be forced into retirement before reaching the age of 67, despite her application for an employment extension. This decision led to Yulia’s retirement taking effect in January, coinciding with her 67th birthday. Consequently, she was ineligible for the special allowance designated for workers over the age of 67 during the war, and she also did not qualify for unemployment benefits. The distressing circumstances surrounding Yulia’s departure exacerbated her emotional turmoil, plunging her into a state of depression that significantly impacted her mental health during this challenging period.

Kav La Oved works (KLO) to promote the rights of all workers in Israel’s labor sector – regardless of religion, nationality, gender, or status. KLO stands by the most disadvantaged workers – including low-income Israelis, refugees and asylum seekers, Palestinian workers, and migrant workers – and helps them to legally exhaust their legal rights. KLO provides legal and paralegal counseling to individual workers  in person and remotely. Base on the learning accumulated from these individual cases, KLO lobbies Knesset members and submits principle cases to Israel’s Court of Justice advocating for changes and improvements in policies directed towards a more inclusive and just labor sector in Israel.

Full report – in Hebrew.