Knesset passes law barring employers from firing spouses of IDF reservists

Following months of lobbying by Reservists’ Wives Forum, MKs approve measure to ‘protect our dear reservist families’

Representatives of the Reservists’ Wives Forum meet with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (left) in early 2024. (Courtesy)
Representatives of the Reservists’ Wives Forum meet with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (left) in early 2024. (Courtesy)

Spouses of IDF reservists will now be protected from being fired or placed on unpaid leave, under a new law passed on Tuesday.

The Knesset passed in the third and final reading legislation that prevents the firing or downgrading of work conditions of such spouses — as well as the second parent of a reservist’s child — during the period of reserve duty, and for 14 days after their service ends, without first obtaining a permit from the Defense Ministry’s to-be-formed employment committee.

Additionally, the law stipulates that as a temporary measure until the end of 2025 — extendable by up to three years — employers will be restricted from firing an employee who has a child up to the age of 14 during the reserve duty of their partner, provided that the reserve duty is either mandatory or lasts at least 21 days.

Employers who violate the law could face criminal proceedings and financial sanctions.

Additionally, couples with at least one child will be eligible for a one-time reservists’ stipend from the government, and will be allowed to go on leave without pay during the service.

The legislation passed with 21 votes in favor and 0 opposed.

Coalition whip Ofir Katz (Likud) said in a statement that lawmakers had worked for three months to “protect our dear reservist families. When our reservists are on the front lines, they should be focused on one thing only — the victory of the mission.”

Likud MK Ofir Katz chairs a meeting of the Knesset House Committee in Jerusalem on July 19, 2023. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

“As someone who was herself put on leave without pay at the beginning of the war, the employers were too quick to harm the livelihood of reserve families,” said Rotem Avidar Tzalik of the Reservists’ Wives Forum, welcoming the new law.

The Reservists’ Wives Forum was founded amid the war to raise awareness of the needs of the partners and spouses of soldiers and to make changes and adjustments to government policy for the protection of their rights, in particular in the workplace. The group has been demanding that the government apply some of the laws, including protection from dismissal and other entitlements provided for reserve soldiers, also to their spouses.

According to a survey conducted on behalf of the forum earlier this year, over 30 percent of reservists’ spouses — mostly women — reported a change in their employment status. Six percent were fired from their jobs, 6% were put on furlough, 9% decided to give notice and 38% reduced their working hours at their own expense.

Representatives of the Reservists’ Wives Forum work on an assistance plan for the families of reserve soldiers, in early 2024. (Courtesy)

As of March, the forum had 5,000 members and represented about 100,000 reserve families. Its heads, among them many lawyers, earlier this year met with multiple coalition politicians and took part — often bringing their children with them — in discussions held on the matter in the Economic Affairs Committee, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality.

While the government introduced a plan to compensate war-affected businesses as thousands of employees were called up to join the fighting, spouses of reservists faced with economic hardships and mental distress due to the absence of their partners have thus far not been receiving adequate recognition and financial assistance, according to the forum.

Before the passage of Tuesday’s law, there was protection against dismissal, but the protection was not hermetic. In Israel, the Workers’ Protection Law in times of emergency prohibits employers from firing an employee who is absent from work either due to reserve duty, a Home Front Command order, or due to the supervision of a child up to the age of 14, or a child with special needs, while the education system is closed.

At the end of November, a temporary order came into effect, which protected spouses of reservists from being laid off if they were absent from work because they had to care for a child up to the age of 14.

Sharon Wrobel contributed to this report.

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