Israelis in quarantine to get equal support from both state and employer

Workers will only lose one day of pay

A yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem studies overlooking the Western Wall, students in quarantine (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem studies overlooking the Western Wall, students in quarantine
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Finance Minister Israel Katz and Knesset Labor Committee head Likud MK Haim Katz agreed Sunday on a new outlay to settle the issue of who should compensate Israelis ordered to stay in quarantine due to COVID-19 health concerns.
Until now, workers were expected to suffer a loss of two weeks’ pay – but, from now, they will only lose one day, with the rest of the time being equally covered by the state and their respective employer, the Knesset Spokesperson reported. The funds will be wired via the National Social Security Agency.
The NSSA requested companies file requests to be reimbursed for paying their workers in February 2021 to give them the time to get ready to offer the service. The agency said the payment will be delivered retroactively from the time the bill is passed into law.
“This step, alongside many other steps, will aid the Israeli market and the working public hurt by the COVID-19 crisis,” Katz said. He added that he will “continue to work to help wherever it is needed.”
The state will cover 75% of the amount needed for businesses that employ up to 20 people, effectively supporting small businesses. Larger businesses, which have more employees, will get 50% in subsidies.
Up to four sick leave days can be deducted from a worker’s allowance in exchange for the employer offering support. Such days cannot include weekends and holidays. If workers reach their quota of sick days, they can decide whether to use future sick leave that will accrue or whether to receive 70% of their usual salary from the state.
While this is the arrangement in the private sector, those employed by the state will receive the benefits stated in their contracts if these are an improvement over the new benefits available.
Lahav Head Roee Cohen slammed the state for treating self-employed Israelis like “Zombies: alive when the issue is paying debts and dead when the issue is getting rights.”
Cohen compared the self-employed to the living dead because they are not included within the reach of the new agreement.
He noted that “the cab driver, the plumber and the hairdresser” are being told they must pay the cost of time spent in quarantine out of their own pocket. This would, in turn, mean they will be pushed into working during that time and risk other people, he claimed.
CEO of the Union of Cleaning Service Providers Veronica Rosenberg slammed the plan, too.
“This would mean the collapse of many businesses,” she warned, “the government must understand that there is no economy without the private sector.”
Katz requested that soldiers who have families of their own and national service volunteers who have a work permit should get a special benefit from the state if they lose their jobs. Volunteers would be able to obtain NIS 5,500; a committee will be formed to decide on the one-time grant to be given to IDF soldiers.
Katz attacked Finance Ministry officials during the debate for not discussing the issue of a one-time grant to IDF soldiers and people who volunteer by saying the way the officials behave is “shameful, disgraceful.” He told them, “we won’t let you bury this.”
Katz added that once approved, the outlay will extend until March 2021.
The offer was not debated because it has not yet been submitted to the Knesset.
Under Katz, the Finance Ministry lost several key people who resigned, allegedly due to the poor relations they had received from the ruling party.
Due to a previous Supreme Court decision, employers were unable to use their allotment of sick days to cover quarantine costs. The Sunday agreement offers a measure of state support to businesses who wish to keep their workers during a time of great uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown strategy put into place under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the coalition with Blue and White.