1.Safety and hygiene
The Ministry of Health is continuously updating its instructions and guidance on the containment of Covid-19. It has emphasised careful hygiene practices (such as proper hand washing) and to avoid shaking hands. Generally, adopt hygiene practices such as making sterilisation products available to the employees. Consider scheduling more frequent cleaning of premises and facilities.
Employees (‘employee’ is broadly defined in this context and not limited to employment relations) who are subject to Home Quarantine obligations (whether they are sick or not) and any employees with a fever over 38°C, must not be allowed in the workplace at all.
Employees are required to measure their temperature before arriving at the workplace and make a statement on the absence of the following symptoms: temperature of over 38°C, cough and difficulty breathing. The statement should be provided to the employer upon arrival at the workplace, on a daily basis. The employer is required to collect and keep the forms. A version of the form is to be published on the Ministry of Health website.
Regarding employees attending the workplace, the government regulations state that employers are required to maintain a distance of two metres between employees, and if it cannot, the employer is required to take other measures to prevent infection. In addition, employers must assign to each employee, as far as possible, fixed personal equipment, including a keyboard, mouse, and landline telephone. To the extent that equipment is used by more than one person, the employer is required to ensure that the equipment has been rigorously disinfected before being transferred from person to person. The employer must instruct employees to adhere strictly to hygiene rules, including hand washing, and the employer is required to instruct the employees to avoid two persons being in the elevator at the same time.
It is extremely important to keep informed, and keep employees informed especially in relation to Home Quarantine, entry into Israel and travel warnings and recommendations. Government guidelines are constantly being updated and refined, in an attempt to battle further infections and spreading of Covid-19. Employers should consider appointing a designated employee or team to manage preparations or actions taken in relation to coronavirus, and inform the employees of their identity.
In the current exceptional circumstances, actions more stringent than government guidelines may be considered reasonable. This will depend on circumstances including the nature of the workplace (e.g. do employees work in an open space, or does the position require visits to hospitals).
Employers are required to obtain a statement from employees regarding their temperature, and cannot permit entry into the workplace of employees with a fever of over 38°C. You should uphold privacy rules, including only using any information provided for the purpose of containing the coronavirus, for that purpose.
3. School closure, homeworking, quarantine and closing the workplace and national lockdown
Lockdown measures in place
As of 13 March, all schools kindergartens and special education facilities were closed. We recommend monitoring future instructions.
Under an amendment to the Emergency Regulations (Limiting the Number of Employees in the Workplace Due to the Outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus), 2020, effective as of April 1, 2020, there cannot be more than ten employees or 15% of the workforce, whichever is higher, in attendance at the workplace, at the same time. However, employers who are subject to this restriction can apply through the website of the Ministry of Economy and Industry and give notice regarding increasing the number of employees that can physically attend the workplace at the same time, up to 30%. This is if this is essential to the ongoing activities of the workplace. As part of the notice, the employer is required to specify the names of the employees whose presence is required in the workplace, their roles and the reasons why their presence is required.
Employers that allow their employees entry to the workplace in a manner that is inconsistent with the Regulations, are liable to criminal sanctions. Please note the limitations relate to employees physically attending the workplace at the same time, and not to the total number of employees that can be employed at each workplace.
The entry of non-core employees into the workplace (and remaining there) will only be possible if their presence is essential for ongoing activities and the employer has sent a notice regarding them via the website of the Ministry of Economy and Industry, detailing their names, roles and the reasons why their attendance is required. Non-core employees are defined as employees whose employment does not form part of the core of the workplace, except for cleaning, security or computer workers.
It is prohibited to receive members of the public in the workplace, unless it is necessary for the provision of essential products or services, and only to the extent that the employer has reduced, as far as possible, the number of employees involved in receiving the public.
In a workplace where employees work in shifts, the employer must place employees, as much as possible, in such a way that the same group of employees is together during the same shift.
There is a long list of exceptions to the attendance rules, depending on the nature of the workplace’s field of activity. This list includes banking, capital markets, health services, electricity, natural gas, water, food and beverages, transport and storage services, agriculture, toiletries, cleaning products and cosmetics, ports and shipping, transportation, local authorities, communications, welfare services, environmental protection, couriers, workplaces supporting construction and infrastructure, education and more; and workplaces that provide services or products needed to continue the proper functioning of all of those areas of activity. The full list is in the Annex to the Emergency Regulations, available here (in Hebrew). Employers whose field of activity is listed in the Annex must reduce, as far as possible, the number of employees in the workplace to the amount needed to ensure essential activity.
The Emergency Regulations (Novel Coronavirus – Limitation of Activities) Regulations, 2020 contain restrictions on:
See here for the full text (in English).
A Collective Agreement has placed government employees, and employees of public entities not defined as essential employees on vacation, on account of their accrued annual leave entitlement until after the Passover holiday (16 April 2020).
Israel has established strict criteria and rules for obligatory Home Quarantine. Israel requires the following groups to be in Home Quarantine, and inform the Ministry of Health in a set procedure:
Anyone returned from abroad in the last 14 days (from any country; this list initially only contained a few countries, and was consistently expanded in line with the spread of Covid-19, until reaching the current guideline which refers to all countries).
Employees on mandated Home Quarantine are not permitted to enter the workplace, and cannot be required to work from home (since they are on sick leave). However, it is possible to offer them to work from home (since they may not actually be sick). If they do, it will not be considered sick leave.
Sickness and quarantine pay
Absence on mandated Home Quarantine is deemed sick leave, entitling employees to sick leave pay (as long as they have accrued sick leave days in their favour). On day one of sick leave there is no entitlement to salary; on days two and three employees are entitled to 50% of their salary and from day four onwards, they are entitled to 100%. You may have enhanced sick pay arrangements. The government has issued a comprehensive medical certificate for these absences, which also covers children’s home quarantine. You cannot request that employees provide a personal certificate under these circumstances.
Temporary state support for pay
There are no government benefits for employees on sick leave / home quarantine. There is an entitlement to unemployment benefits (under relaxed terms), as detailed below. The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Social Services has announced that freelance workers would be entitled to various benefits. We await the formal publication of these benefits.
Thoroughly assess the need for any travel abroad and adhere to all travel warnings and bans. Note that on return, any travellers will be required to enter Home Quarantine, that flights are scarce due to many airline cancellations, and that foreign citizens will not necessarily be allowed to enter Israel.
Public transport has been significantly limited, to provide some coverage only during working hours. Individuals have also been encouraged not to use public transport if possible. Limitations on travel to work include an instruction that only two people can travel in a private vehicle at a one time (unless there is an essential need for additional passengers).
There are very extensive restrictions in place on entry into Israel on top of the 14-days Home Quarantine upon any return. In particular, as of 18 March 2020, all non-Israel citizens or non-residents of Israel are barred from entering Israel under any circumstances (whether by air, sea or land).
On 29 March 29, 2020, the Ministry of Health published a memo with instructions regarding the entry of foreign experts into Israel. According to the instructions, a limited number of workers, whose activity is vital for fixing critical machines (at medical facilities and otherwise), will be provided with a foreign expert’s permit to enter the country. The Ministry of Health’s instructions include detailed reference regarding the duration of foreign experts’ stay in Israel, including staying in a secluded apartment; transfer from the airport and rules regarding their conduct.
We recommend that you keep up to date with all the latest information, on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website page ‘Recommendations for Overseas Travelers’, and the Population and Immigration Authority’s website.
Employers must avoid targeting specific employees without a reasonable basis. However, differential treatment due to an employer following the governmental guidelines in light of the situation (such as differential treatment of those returning from China at the beginning of the crisis), does not constitute discrimination, but rather fulfillment of a legal requirement.
7. Reporting to the authorities (when and what to report)
Employees must report that they are in Home Quarantine themselves, using an online form or calling the health call centre on *5400.This is not your responsibility. Employees who refuse to enter Home Quarantine may be charged with endangering the public. There is a national hotline for reporting violations of the governmental guidelines.
8. Advice from government/authorities
The Ministry of Health, the Population and Immigration Authority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are continuously updating their guidelines and instructions.
9. Emergency orders or laws (e.g. lockdowns) and the implications of these for businesses
On 30 March 2020, the Israeli Ministry of Finance announced an unprecedented NIS 80 billion economic support package to address the significant economic consequences of the Coronavirus on the economy. The package targets four key areas: support to the healthcare system in handling the coronavirus outbreak and its consequences; social welfare support to employees and the self-employed; support to businesses in dealing with the economic impact of the coronavirus; and implementation of economy recover and stimulus measures.
Approximately NIS 41 billion is allocated to supporting businesses. Of that, approximately NIS 6 billion is allocated for ‘business grants’ with a further NIS 2.7 billion for municipal rate exemptions for March to May for affected businesses. The Israeli Government will also refund income tax prepayments for the months of February and March and will grant automatic extensions to various licences and permits to foster continued business activity. An amount of approximately NIS 9 billion is allocated to deferral of VAT payments and payment of municipal, electricity and water rates.
The economic support package also provides for the establishment of two funds to grant loans to local businesses, one of approximately NIS 8 billion, is dedicated to small and medium-sized businesses; the other (approximately NIS 7 billion), is dedicated to large businesses with an annual turnover between NIS 0.4 and 1.2 billion to receive a loan in an amount of up to 8% of annual turnover. A further NIS 500 million is allocated towards assisting businesses in complying with new Ministry of Health requirements (such as converting to online sales).
10. Any other points you wish to make
As of 10 March 2020, requirements for receiving unemployment benefits have been made more flexible, where employees are dismissed or placed on unpaid leave by their employer in coronavirus-related circumstances, for a period of 30 days or more. Employees will receive this benefit if national insurance contributions have been made on their behalf for 6 months out of the previous 18 months (rather than 12 months as previously required), provided they were dismissed or placed on unpaid leave between 1 March 2020 and 19 April 19 2020;
We note that employees may refuse to be placed on unpaid leave, in which case, employers may have to consider how to proceed with such employees.
Furthermore, employees above the age of 67 (retirement age) shall also be entitled to a special grant (rather than unemployment benefits) in circumstances of being dismissed or placed on unpaid leave, after a period of at least 3 consecutive months of employment.