Kahlon Comes Out in Support of Bill Giving Workers One Sunday a Month Off

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Employees work at the new SodaStream factory built deep in Israel's Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat, Israel, that will replace the West Bank facility when it shuts down, Sept. 2, 2015.Credit: AP

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has expressed support for a bill that would provide giving workers’ one Sunday off a month, but they would have to make up the lost time during the rest of the week, a requirement that the head of the Histadrut labor federation opposes.

The regular work week in the business sector in Israel is Sunday through Thursday, but many employees, in retail for example, also work at least a short day on Fridays. The bill, sponsored by MKs Eli Cohen of Kahlon’s Kulanu party and David Ansalem of Likud, would require workers to make up the hours lost on Sunday during the rest of the week. The plan would initially be implemented for seven months of the year, but ultimately consideration will be given to expending it to a year-round arrangement. Although a 40-hour workweek is standard in much of the Western world, in Israel the standard week is 42.5 hours.

The legislation is expected to come before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in about two weeks. If the committee endorses the bill, its chances of passage are high because the committee’s assent constitutes support by the coalition government, which has a majority, albeit of one seat, in the Knesset. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin has also come out in favor of the bill.

Kahlon will present the bill to the committee, and Cohen is working to get the business sector on board and is said to have already garnered the support of Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce.

“The shift to a long weekend once a month will dramatically change the character of working in Israel and has many advantages, including reducing worker burnout, shortening work hours, improving the individual’s quality of life and contributing to economic sectors such as commerce and tourism,” Cohen said.

However, Roy Cohen, president of the Lahav umbrella organization for independent businesspeople, expressed opposition: “The bill changes working arrangements and has no counterpart in the world. Adding 15 minutes a day [to compensate for the day off] is a farce. It’s not possible to implement and not serious. Unfortunately the bill ignores the economic consequences on the small independent business sector,” he said.

In discussions to advance the bill, it has been suggested that in the first stage of its implementation, long weekends be scheduled for the summer months of July and August and five other months of the year on a trial basis. The intention is that it ultimately be extended to every month of the year, and during the third year of the experiment, consideration will be given to making every Sunday a day off rather than just one Sunday a month. That would also include giving school students Sundays off, but they would have shorter school vacations, at Passover, for example. Most students currently go to school six days a week, from Sunday through Friday. Special education students would continue to attend school six days a week.

If the law goes into effect, the Finance Ministry is expected to submit additional legislation that would eliminate stock trading on Sundays as well.

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