The Knesset on Monday gave a final approval to a law letting Israeli employees request not to work on the weekly day of rest even without a religious reason without fear of being fired.
The law previously stated that employees had to prove religious observance when asking to take time off for religious days of rest — Saturday for Jews, Friday for Muslims and Sunday for Christians.
In case of Jewish employees, bosses could demand a declaration saying they keep kosher in and outside their homes and don’t drive on Shabbat.
Knesset lawmakers unanimously passed the new law canceling those requirements during Monday’s plenum session.
“The proposal is meant to let any worker refuse to work on the weekly day of rest set by law, and not only those who observe Shabbat and kashrut, without the danger of being fired or not being hired,” MKs Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Miki Zohar (Likud) wrote in their explanation for the new law.
They said that the requirements to prove Shabbat observance did not fit in with Israeli culture, where many celebrate certain traditional aspects of the day, like a Friday night meal with family, while still using cars.
Under the new law, people employed in jobs related to public safety or public health or that provide necessary services will not be able to refuse to work on the day of rest. This applies to both religious and nonreligious employees.
Other workplaces will be able to apply for a special exemption from the law via a ministerial committee composed of the prime minister, labor minister and religious affairs minister.
“This is a historic amendment recognizing that Shabbat belongs to all — secular, religious and traditional people alike,” said Lavie. “The law reflects the essence of a Jewish and democratic state, which doesn’t discriminate between people based on their religious beliefs.
“The law is balanced and doesn’t force any employer or employee to do anything, but hands the choice to the workers and makes it unnecessary for them to lie about their customs just because they want to rest during the Sabbath,” she added.