New laws in Israel require companies to hire the disabled, but for some organizations – especially nonprofits – accommodating and paying salaries to these workers is likely to be expensive. For the first time, the government announced last Thursday that it will be participating in those expenses, by implementing a five million shekel program to provide nonprofits and other “social enterprises” with money to subsidize workers’ salaries.
The program includes not just disabled workers but at-risk youth, the long-term unemployed, and public assistance recipients who are part of the “target population” set by the Economy Ministry, which is funding the program via Israel’s Small and Medium Business Agency. Businesses can get up to NIS 200,000 a year to fund up to 50% of the salaries of eligible workers in their first year of employment. The program, which the ministry is planning to continue through at least 2017, will provide 40% of worker salaries in its second year.
The program is designed for organizations that have made a priority of hiring the disabled or other eligible groups. According to the criteria, organizations must have at least five special-needs workers, with the requirement increasing depending on the size of the firm.
Last July, the Histadrut labor union and the Israel Manufacturers Association signed an agreement that would see all businesses covered by collective bargaining agreements hire at least 2% of their workers from among the 800,000 Israelis who are disabled. In September of 2014, then-economy minister Naftali Bennett signed a ministerial order that will require all business in Israel to hire at least 3% of their workforce from among the disabled. The measure is an extension of existing laws preventing discrimination against the disabled in the workplace, with Bennett’s order setting a minimum definition for that discrimination. The changes are set to take effect September 2016.
It’s expected that many small nonprofits that do work on behalf of the disabled will take advantage of the new program to hire more workers, sharing the salary burden with the government.
According to Economy Minister Aryeh Deri, “Today, the most disadvantaged people must struggle twice – first with their problematic point of departure, and then with being stigmatized by society. I have made the commitment to concern myself with them, and that means not only cutting prices or increasing benefits, but also properly integrating them into the labor market.”