Vulnerable employees unprotected as labor enforcement dept. overtaxed

Some 15,000 requests to put pregnant women on unpaid leave have been submitted since the beginning of the pandemic; the annual average is only 1,000. "I can only handle a small number of complaints."

Haredi woman working 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Haredi woman working 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic have caused the enforcement branch of the Labor Ministry to drastically reduce enforcement of basic labor laws, leaving vulnerable workers who need their protection, such as pregnant women, Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox, Globes reported.
The same economic pressures caused by the coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns have increased the motivation for businesses to cut corners on their employees' rights.
Due to a lack of manpower and an increased workload, the enforcement department "can't initiate any enforcement," Meir David, the head of enforcement, told Globes. "These days, I can only handle a small number of complaints," he said.
"The enforcement branch is working with 38 fewer regulators than in previous years," David said, adding that things have gotten worse lately. "A number of workers have left, and at the same time we received a flood of requests to put pregnant women on unpaid leave." The department is currently working with only 55% of its positions filled.
There have been 15,000 requests submitted to the enforcement department to put pregnant women on unpaid leave since the beginning of the pandemic. The yearly average from previous years is 1,000 such requests. Of these requests, 90% have been approved because businesses making the requests were closing due to the pandemic and putting other workers on unpaid leave along with the pregnant women.
The situation for pregnant women was not ideal even before the pandemic, according to Globes, with many women afraid to tell employers about their pregnancies or fertility treatments. Laws are in place to protect these women, but the law is not always reflected in workplace practices.
This flood of requests, which must be approved by the department in order for businesses to legally put pregnant women on unpaid leave, has placed even more strain on the already over-taxed enforcement department.
David says that the enforcement department is handling the workload by enforcing "only in cases where there is real suspicion of rule violation, and in cases where we had found violations in the past."