The High Court of Justice told the Health Ministry Monday it could no longer automatically deem workers who have been ordered into quarantine as deserving sick pay, a decision that will free employers from a sizable cost.
Citing its understanding of the wording of the Sick Pay Law, the court said the ministry’s public health division was not authorized to issue illness certificates to salaried workers quarantined due to the coronavirus.
It said the law did not cover employees who are suspected of having or carrying COVID-19, saying this is not tantamount to suffering an illness that prevents them from working. But the court said that to prevent currently quarantined workers from suddenly losing their sick pay and to give the government time to adjust, the ban will only go into effect after September 30.
Prof. Siegal Sadetzki, who announced her resignation as head of the public health service, had been issuing the certificates.
The government’s decision on quarantined employees' sick pay was challenged by business groups including the Manufacturers Association, the crafts and industry association and the cleaning companies association.
“Quarantine isn’t an illness and the burden of paying salaries to tens of thousands of workers in isolation as sick days is inconceivable,” said Ron Tomer, the president of the Manufacturers Association. “The state is issuing the quarantine orders and it’s the one that should pay for them, not employers or employees.”
The ruling, however, may not give the companies what they sought because they will continue to cover sick pay for two months while the government comes up with another system for quarantined workers. Also, employers won’t be compensated for the sick pay they have been covering.
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“We expect the government to take responsibility for retroactive compensation of employers and adopt the court’s decision immediately,” Tomer said.
The Histadrut labor federation said it would fight to prevent workers from taking a financial hit by the court’s decision. It recommended the system used when the army’s Home Front Command issues orders that prevent workers from reaching their jobs: The state covers the wage costs.