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Israel: New Law Defines Factors for Approving Employment on the Sabbath

(Jan. 5, 2018) On December 26, 2017, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed a law detailing conditions for approval of employment on the Sabbath. (Hours of Work and Rest Law (Amendment No. 16) Law, 5778-2017 (the Amendment Law).  (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, SH] 5778 No. 2675 p. 73, RESHUMOT [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] (enter 2675 in upper left box and click on search at bottom left) (in Hebrew)), amending the Hours of Work and Rest Law, 5711-1951, SH 5711 No. 76 p. 204 (the Law), as amended.)

The Law requires that an employee’s weekly rest not be less than thirty-six consecutive hours in a week. For Jews the weekly rest period must include Saturday; for non-Jews, “the Sabbath day or Sunday or Friday, whichever is ordinarily observed by him as his weekly day of rest.” (Id. § 7.) The Law authorizes the Minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Services (the Minister), however, to permit an employee to be employed during all or any of the hours of weekly rest if Minister is satisfied that interrupting the work is likely to endanger state defense, public security, or the economy, or the process of work or supply of services that the Minister considers to be essential to public welfare. (Id. § 12.)

The Amendment Law requires the Minister to consider the following factors in determining whether to permit employment during an employee’s hours of weekly rest:

  1. the employee’s welfare;
  2. the heritage of Israel;
  3. advancement of an alternative that does not require employment during the hours of weekly rest; and
  4. the level of harm to the public sphere that is expected in the location for which the permit is requested if that request is not granted. (Amendment Law § 1.)

The Amendment Law was reportedly proposed by United Torah Judaism, a joint list made up of ultra-Orthodox parties, as a precondition for their remaining in the coalition government. The proposed legislation was submitted in connection with the light-train construction that had been performed during weekdays, including on Saturdays.  (Final Approval: Grant of Permits to Work on the Sabbath, in Consideration of Heritage, GLOBES (Dec. 26, 2017) (in Hebrew); for information on the United Torah Judaism list, see United Torah Judaism, ISRAEL DEMOCRACY INSTITUTE (last visited Jan. 2, 2018).)