Working Under Rocket Fire, Israeli Parents Face Tough Choices

Operation Protective Edge has made guardians choose whether to stay home with the kids, and have their pay docked, or bring them to work.

Hila Weissberg
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Moran David and her son. Her company, Maccabi, set up an emergency day-care center for staff.
Moran David and her son. Her company, Maccabi, set up an emergency day-care center for staff.Credit: Courtesy
Hila Weissberg

Ayelet Amir-Amafo, 34, has been stuck at home with her three children since last Thursday, when the Home Front Command ordered her children’s day camps to close. Normally she works in Bezeq’s customer service center in Ashdod.

“When the alerts increased, I found it hard to work normally in the center. The fear paralyzed me,” said Amir-Amafo. “My head was not in my work, and all the working parents fled home to their children. Workers without children stayed. Since then I’ve been home with my children. My husband continues to go to his garage to work normally, and even works overtime. I’m not getting any compensation for the workdays I’ve missed, so it’s important that someone is earning more now.”

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge a week ago, many working parents have been facing difficult dilemmas: Do I go to work and leave the children in day care? What if the day-care center is closed because it does not have adequate protection against the rockets? Is there any choice but to stay at home? Will I receive compensation for the days of missed work?

The good news is that the law protecting workers during emergency situations is on the side of working parents. The law states that if the children’s school or day-care center is closed on the orders of the Home Front Command, one of the parents is allowed to remain home with children up to age 14. In other words, an employee who stays home with the children during an emergency or war cannot be fired for it.

Compensation for the time off work is another story, and more complicated. So far, such compensation under the law has been granted only retroactively and a few months after the fighting ended.

“In previous operations – the Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defense – workers received compensation for the days they missed. The compensation is paid by the Tax Authority, either to the worker himself or the employer, depending on the agreement between them about the missed days,” said Rivka Verbner, deputy head of labor relations at the Economy Ministry.

“But other considerations that could cause workers to miss work – a fear of coming to work at all, for example – do not grant the right for monetary compensation or any form of protection. Every worker makes his own rules,” she says. Verbner said she also worries when she leaves for work in the morning to go to Jerusalem, but she follows the civil defense instructions.

Toddlers in the conference room

Liat Ben Torah Shushan, a department manager in Alljobs in Netanya, worked a few days from home after her daughter’s preschool was closed because it did not have adequate protection from rockets. On Sunday, her husband received an emergency call-up order from the army and left for the reserves. She says her employer has shown consideration and she can continue to work from home, but that does not necessarily make it easy – and there are lots of interruptions.

The problem is really not knowing when the operation will end, she admits. She was supposed to go back to work in the office later this week and her husband was to have stayed home with their daughter, but now his reserve duty will force her to find another solution. “Many parents are frustrated, justifiably,” she says.

Maccabi Healthcare Services offered a creative solution for such parents: A small, ad hoc day-care center was set up for the employees of its call center at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. They set up a playroom and take turns watching the children. They had 20 kids at first and now have 30. They use a conference room and can also show movies for the kids.

But productivity is still not what it usually is, as people leave earlier because of the children and are worried, says office manager Moran David. There are also parents who live in the south who do not come into work because they are afraid of the danger of rockets during their commute.

The Amir-Amafo family in Ashdod. Ayelet has been home with the kids since Thursday.Credit: Courtesy
Liat Ben Torah Shushan and her family. Reserve duty complicates matters further.Credit: Courtesy

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