The High Court of Justice on Sunday rejected a petition by Yolanda Gloten, a caregiver from the Philippines, who asked the court to overrule a 2007 decision by the National Labor Court, saying she was not entitled to overtime wages for round-the-clock treatment of an elderly employer.
The judges refused to accept the petition, saying the case relates to a delicate situation that calls for comprehensive legislation and that goes beyond the scope of the court.
The petition, filed on behalf of Gloten by workers rights group Kav Laoved, argued that the National Labor Court's ruling that Gloten was not to be paid overtime wages violated workers' fundamental rights as set out by the Work and Rest Hours Law.
"The National Labor Court's ruling relies on an extraneous and irrelevant consideration, namely, the effect of overtime pay to these workers on the employers' financial ability to employ homecare workers at their service. The employer's financial situation cannot be used as a consideration in adjudicating the right of a worker to receive payment," read the petition.
"The National Labor Court's decision entirely excluded homecare workers from the applicability of the Work and Rest Hours Law, seriously violating their basic rights according to protective labor legislation. Tens of thousands of workers, employed in irregular working patterns that require living in the employer's house and round-the-clock availability, are exposed by the court's decision to abuse, exploitation and deprivation," stated the petition.
In its ruling, the court emphasized the value of foreign caregivers to Israeli society, particularly elderly patients, but refused to overrule the National Labor Court's decision, citing the complexity of the issue and the need for comprehensive legislation.
"Within the current legal framework there is no arrangement that matches the unique situation of the caregivers, and any narrow or partial interpretation of the law regarding the payment of overtime wages - without addressing the whole range of issues that arise from the arrangement - may lead to very harsh results. Therefore, there should be no interference in the ruling of the National Labor Court," read the Supreme Court judgment.
Accepting the petition would have meant a precedent-setting ruling that could ultimately lead to the crumbling of the care-giving sector in Israel. If the court had decided that caregivers were to receive overtime wages, it would have raised the cost of treatment to levels where a large majority of the elderly populations could not afford it.
In rejecting the petition the court urged the legislature to work on finding a comprehensive solution.
"Kav Laoved congratulates the Supreme Court's recognition of the need to pay caregivers decent wages and their contribution to Israeli society and the recipients of their care, which often goes overlooked.
At the same time, the organization expresses regret that the court did not instruct the National Labor Court on methods to calculate overtime payment in the meantime, until the issue is settled through legislation," read the response from Kav Laoved.