Must Employers Pay Workers Absent Due to War?

Since Operation Cast Lead began, it isn't rare for workers in the southern towns within the rocket footprint to stay home, whether at the order of the Home Front Command or because the kids' school is closed. Under these circumstances, should the workers be paid as usual? And by whom?

Anat Kenet, from the law offices of Lipa Meir, says the rule is that workers are entitled to pay only when they show up and perform their duties. The exception is absenteeism under specific circumstances, such as approved vacation, illness or reserve duty.

If a worker misses work because of the security situation, he is not entitled to pay unless his absence and compensation have been regulated - in any fashion, such as by a collective employment agreement, a Ministry of Industry and Trade directive, or even the worker's employment contract.

In other words, says Kenet, the law does not require the employer to pay workers who don't show up because of the emergency situation, even when the security forces order a curfew. Nor does the employer have to pay the workers if the Home Front orders the business to close.

During the Second Gulf War in 2003 and the Second Lebanon War in 2006, people missed work for days or even weeks at a time. After the event, collective employment agreements were signed, regulating pay for some of the absent workers, says Kenet - they received their full pay for the period, though without any overtime.

The only place union representatives gave way was in waiving some vacation days. Also, the law protecting workers during emergencies, enacted in 2006, ordered employers to pay workers residing on the front line with Lebanon. That law might be extended to cover people affected by Operation Cast Lead.

As things stand, if an employer chooses to pay workers who miss work because of the war in the south, he won't be entitled to compensation from the state, Kenet says.