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In accordance with the Veterans (Return to Work) Law, employers are already prohibited from dismissing employees as a consequence of their reserve service. If employers wish to dismiss employees who are on reserve duty for more than two consecutive days, either during the reserve service or within a period of thirty days after the end of that service, they must apply to an Employment Committee operating within the Ministry of Defense for a permit; employers have the burden of proving that the dismissal is not due to the reserve service. 

Bearing in mind how the scope of reserve service has expanded since October 7, 2023, and the implications for households and for the labour market, the law was amended to add protections both for reservists and for their spouses. 

These are the main protections that were added in the amendment.

Protections for reservists

For those serving in the reserves, in addition to the existing prohibition of dismissal, it is now also forbidden to derogate from the scope of the position or the income of the reservist. This prohibition applies unless the derogation of income derives from provisions of a law or collective agreement or stems from a decrease in output of an employee whose salary is paid based on that output, where the decrease in output was not caused by employer-dependent acts. 

Protections for spouses of reservists

It is now forbidden to dismiss, as a result of the reserve service, someone who is the spouse of a reservist or the co-parent of a child of a reservist. For these purposes, a ‘child’ is defined as someone under the age of 14, as well as an older special needs student. Such dismissals, when made as a result of service in the reserves, are considered void. 

In addition, as a temporary order that applies through 31 December 2025, certain protections have been established for a spouse who is the parent of such a child during the period of reserve service, even when the dismissal is not a result of the service itself. An employer that wishes to dismiss, or place on unpaid leave, the spouse of a reservist during the period of reserve service is required to apply to the Employment Committee for a permit to do so, if (i) the reserve service is under an ‘Article 8’ Order or has an expected duration of at least 21 consecutive days, and if (ii) the employer received written notice from the employee regarding their spouse’s reserve service at least three days following the date on which the employer notified the employee of its intention to dismiss them or place them on unpaid leave. For the period through 31 December 2024, the requirement to apply for a permit to dismiss the spouse of a reservist applies not only during the period of reserve service, but for 14 days after the end of reserve service as well. 

In this context, unpaid leave that would require application for a permit includes:  

 

  • unlimited leave;  
  • continuous leave of at least 30 days; or  
  • where the total number of days of unpaid leave is 30 days or more over a two-month period. 

 

Note that even unpaid leave by agreement that nonetheless fits one of the above definitions requires application for a permit from the Employment Committee. If the spouse was already on unpaid leave before the amendment came into force and the employer is given written notice of the reserve service, the employer must apply for a permit for the continuation of this unpaid leave within seven days after delivery of that notice in cases of reserve service under an ‘Article 8’ Order or reserve service of at least 21 consecutive days. 

The burden of proof that the dismissal or unpaid leave is not related to the spouse’s reserve service rests on the employer, and the Employment Committee will not grant a permit for dismissal or unpaid leave unless the employee has been given the opportunity to argue his or her claims before the Committee. 

The Employment Committee has been granted the authority to issue an order requiring the employer to continue employing the spouse, as well as the authority to levy damages in the event of a violation of the provisions of the law. 

Other related protections

The amendment further provides that the period of the spouse’s reserve service will not be counted toward the notice period for dismissal of the employee. Absence of the employee during the spouse’s reserve period will also not interrupt the continuity of his/her employment and will not affect rights dependent on length of service. 

In addition, the National Insurance Law was amended with a temporary order that applies through 31 December 2024. The order creates an entitlement for payment of a grant to spouses of reservists, at a rate corresponding to unemployment benefits, in circumstances where the spouse was placed on unpaid leave during the period of reserve service. 

As part of the passage of this amendment, the Equal Employment Opportunities Law was also amended to add a prohibition on discrimination with regard to spousal reserve service. Other legislative changes allow for the imposition of financial sanctions on employers who dismiss or place on unpaid leave the spouse of a reservist in violation of the prohibitions and restrictions listed above. 

Takeaway for Employers

These changes add substantial protections for reservists and their spouses. We recommend seeking individualized advice for cases in which employers are forced to consider the possibility of terminating the employment of spouses of reservists or placing them on unpaid leave.  

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