(photo credit: Asaf Lev)
Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce business
lobby, called on Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday to
revoke a rule requiring a 36-hour rest period for workers each week.
rest of 24 consecutive hours that doesn’t impinge on Shabbat is certainly
sufficient and provides the appropriate balance between weekly rest, which is a
value of the utmost importance, and freedom of choice over how many hours to
work and when to work,” Lynn said. “The employee will gain, the business will
gain and the economy will gain.”
The regulation in question, part of a
law passed in 1951, requires that workers have 36 hours of consecutive rest
during a given seven-day period, a specification Lynn says is outdated and
inapplicable to modern economic realities. The law, intended to ensure shift
workers get a full rest, might prevent them from concentrating their shifts one
week to have a longer weekend.
“We’re talking about the paternalism of a
legislator from the 50s of last century,” Lynn said.
The Economy and
Trade Ministry said the issue was not a new one, and noted that former minister
Shalom Simhon appointed the ministry’s director- general Uri Paz to head a
committee on issues pertaining to work and rest hours in late 2012, but
disbanded it when the Knesset dissolved itself.
The Histadrut national
labor federation, which advocates for workers’ rights, had no comment on the
Corinne Sauer, director of the Jerusalem Institute for Market
Studies, praised the initiative but said that in the scheme of Israel’s labor
laws, the 36-hour rule was a fairly minor provision.
“It could be more
bold, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Sauer. “Israel has very
strong labor laws. We’re not as bad as countries like Spain or Italy, but then
again, they have 25 percent unemployment.”
Rules that make it difficult
to fire even unproductive employees or set rigid salary requirements, she says,
are worse. But even small regulations, Sauer argues, can encroach on the ability
of a company to use their workers effectively, thus robbing them of resources to
hire more workers.
Sauer offers up France’s 35- hour work week as an
extreme example of such regulations, which she says take the greatest toll on
low-budget small businesses and unemployed workers who are kept out of the labor
“It usually hurts the workers with the least education or least
experience,” she says.