After Months-long Delay, Israel Pays Some Palestinian Workers for Sick Leave

State’s payments to 248 laborers amount to a drop in the bucket.

Or Kashti
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Palestinian workers help construct a new housing development at Ma'aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank, on Dec. 16, 2009.
Palestinian workers help construct a new housing development at Ma'aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank, on Dec. 16, 2009.Credit: Bloomberg
Or Kashti

After months during which the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority had refused to deal with Palestinian workers’ requests for sick pay, the agency made payments to 248 Palestinian laborers authorized to work in Israel.

According to a senior official in the Palestinian Labor Ministry, the total came to around 660,000 shekels ($171,000).

Israelis who employ Palestinians with work permits automatically deduct 2.5 percent of their salaries to a sick-pay fund that is managed by the population authority, and which later passes the funds to the treasury. The Finance Ministry refused to say how much money has accumulated in the fund over the years, but a conservative estimate puts it at hundreds of millions of shekels.

Ten days ago Haaretz reported on the various obstacles faced by Palestinian laborers seeking to claim sick pay. These include delays in processing the requests, partial responses or rejections with no explanation, the lack of clear regulations and a lack of reporting to the workers themselves regarding their rights. Information on how to claim sick pay is very limited and is available in Hebrew only.

These difficulties deter many workers from claiming sick pay in the first place, particularly for short absences.

According to the population authority, between 2013 and 2015 only 1 percent to 1.5 percent of legally employed Palestinians received sick pay – a few hundred every year. Up to last week, only 156 claimants had been paid for 2016. Even with the announcement of last week’s payments, the number of claims approved is still around half of those paid in recent years – 0.67 percent of all Palestinian workers. Some 350 claims are still being examined, and a population authority official said their processing should be completed within a month.

The NGO Kav La’oved, which petitioned the High Court of Justice four months ago about the way the sick-pay fund was being managed, said, “It’s unfortunate that the authority is regularly withholding workers’ pay when they are ill, and are acting only now, under the threat of a petition. Those applying to the fund are forced to wait long months to receive the payments they are entitled to, and this at a time of crisis when they need the money to live, and sometimes even for medical treatment. The miniscule number of workers who ask for sick pay even further illustrates the difficulty in realizing their rights.”

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