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An amendment to the law governing the employment of workers via personnel agencies that went into effect on Friday, January 1, requires security and cleaning contractors to be licensed or face either a fine or a jail term.

Around 170,000 cleaners, guards and security officers are employed by these agencies around the country. Now their operators will have to obtain a license.

To do that they'll have to prove that they have not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude within the past five years.

In addition, the company's owners or CEO will have to provide evidence of previous managerial experience as well as knowledge of workers' rights.

They'll also have to put up a financial bond - the amount is to be decided within a few weeks - that will be forfeited if it turns out that the company has not upheld its employees' rights.

Hezi Ofir, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's Labor Laws Enforcement Division director, said that an owner who has already been informed by the ministry that it intends to issue it a license will be considered crime-free. He also said the ministry will go easy on scofflaws for the first three months.

Sources in the Histadrut labor federation said the licensing requirement could lead to the closure of dozens of fly-by-night cleaning and security agencies that violate labor laws and put draconian clauses into their contracts, such as docking employees for equipment they break accidentally.