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Firing foreign workers – what does the law say?

Joshua Pex
Joshua Pex

Firing foreign workers raises many questions. Foreign workers are entitled to a variety of labor rights reserved for them. This applies not only to the period of employment itself, but also to the termination of the employment relationship. It is important to be thoroughly familiar with the procedure for terminating a worker’s employment, in order to grant the employee their full rights upon termination. Unfortunately, many employers ignorance of this procedure leads to illegal dismissals, and often to compensation claims and legal sanctions as a result. In this article, an attorney from our office who specializes in labor law, with particular knowledge in the area of foreign workers, will describe these rights and explain how to exercise them.

Our law office, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in labor law and particularly the area of foreign workers. Our attorneys provide comprehensive and professional legal assistance to foreign workers and employers. Our services in this field include, among others, legal advice for employees and employers, exercising employees’ rights, representation in labor disputes and proceedings before the authorities and courts, and more.

Generally, foreign workers come to Israel for a limited period of time and to work in a specific job. However, disputes often arise between foreign workers and their employers, or external events occur that lead to the termination of the employment relationship. A possible example of such an external event is when the company in which the foreign workers are employed goes into bankruptcy. Naturally, this will usually result in termination of the employment relationship in the form of firing the employees. In these and cases and others, it is important that both employers and foreign workers understand what the law states regarding the termination of foreign workers’ employment relationships.

Firing foreign workers - what does the law say?

The obligation to give advance notice of termination is as important as the termination itself

In general, you should know that terminating employment for a foreign worker is very similar to firing an Israeli worker. This means that the law obliges the employer to give advance notice before firing a foreign worker, no less than an Israeli worker. The period for giving the advance notice depends on the seniority of the employee, and it can be as much as one month (when it comes to employees with seniority of 3 years or more).

The importance of advance notice should not be underestimated, mainly because failure to provide such notice may obligate the employer to pay the employee compensation. The more time that has passed between the time when the notice should have been given and the time it was actually given, the higher the amount of compensation will be. It should be noted that the advance notice obligation also applies when foreign employees resign. As a rule, the law requires the employee to continue working from the date of the notice to the date when the employment ends. Employees who do not do so may be sued in Labor Court. For example, in 2019 the National Labor Court ruled that an employee who resigned without giving advance notice as required by law would be obligated to compensate her employer accordingly.

Obligation to hold a hearing before firing foreign workers

The purpose of the advance notice is not to warn of expected layoffs, but of the intention to hold a hearing before layoffs. The advance notice is intended to allow employees to properly prepare for the hearing. The obligation to hold a hearing for employees applies equally to all employees in Israel, including foreign workers. The hearing obligation does not depend on the workers’ employment period, and even workers who have worked for a short period of time are entitled to a hearing before dismissal. At the hearing, the employees must be allowed to state their claims, and even invite an attorney or other representative on their behalf. In some cases, it is possible to hold a delayed hearing for employees. However, failure to invite foreign workers to a hearing before dismissal may give them grounds to sue for compensation in Labor Court.

Exercising rights and severance pay

Upon termination of the employment relationship, the foreign workers must be paid severance pay by law. The basic condition for eligibility for severance pay is to complete more than one year of continuous work for the same employer. The severance pay is calculated based on the level of the pre-tax salary in the last working month. It is important to emphasize that it is not possible to fire foreign workers without paying them severance pay, except in very unusual cases. Labor courts have recognized certain criminal acts by workers (such as violence, theft or acts of deception) as grounds for justifying exemption from severance pay. But these are rare exceptions, and as a rule a worker’s failure to show up for work, or work at an acceptable level, are not considered grounds for exemption from severance pay.

Apart from the severance pay, the workers must be paid the full payments to which they are entitled. These payments include the deposit money, if there is an obligation to give a deposit in the sector in which they are employed. They are also entitled to redeem convalescence pay and vacation days. It should be noted that in some cases, an event such as the death of the employer will be considered a dismissal. An example of this is a case where the patient of a foreign nursing worker dies or is permanently hospitalized in a nursing institution. Also, a worker may be able to sue and negotiate with their employer to receive severance pay even in cases of resignation or non-compliance with the normal criteria for severance pay.

Contact a lawyer specializing in labor law

In this article, we have explained key issues regarding terminating foreign workers, including obligations related to the termination procedure and employee payments after dismissal. For any question or issue that arises regarding the termination of foreign workers in Israel, you can contact our law office. An attorney specializing in immigration and labor law, who has experience in dealing with cases of foreign workers and their employers, will be glad to provide you with comprehensive legal assistance on this issue, as well as a variety of other issues.

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