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Working hours of foreign workers in Israel

Joshua Pex
Joshua Pex

Of all the rights of foreign workers in Israel, working hours is one of the issues most surrounded by ambiguity. Foreign workers are often unaware that they are entitled to payment for overtime, same as local employees, starting from the 42d work hour in a single week and from the moment they’ve exceeded the allotted work hours in a single day. Failing to claim this overtime due to employer dishonesty may cause the foreign worker to lose a considerable supplement to their wages. In this article, we will present information to help you understand the issue.

The attorneys from our office, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specialize in labor law and immigration to Israel, and particularly the area of foreign workers. The office provides comprehensive and professional legal assistance to both employees and employers. Services include handling applications to arrange work visas for foreign workers, legal advice and guidance for foreign workers and employers, representation in proceedings to exercise workers’ rights, and more.

 Working hours of foreign workers in Israel

Why are foreign workers not always aware of their right to overtime pay?

The rights of foreign workers in Israel are largely the same as those of the general worker population, with a number of unique features. However, compared to Israeli workers, foreign workers experience an inherent difficulty in availing themselves of their rights fully. Limited comprehension of the Hebrew language, the local culture and a dearth of reliable sources of information on the subject – -all of these can make it very difficult for foreign workers in Israel to exercise their rights.

This is particularly evident regarding working hours. Often, foreign workers do not know the exact number of hours they are supposed to work, and when they are entitled to overtime. Beyond that, there is often uncertainty regarding working hours in specific fields. A striking example of this is the nursing field, where the foreign workers usually live with their patients, and it is unclear whether their rest hours are considered working hours. Below we will put things in order and explain what the law stipulates on the subject.

What are foreign workers’ legal working hours?

The Working Hours and Rest Law regulates the amount of working hours for all employees in Israel. Accordingly, it also applies to foreign workers, although in some cases there are differences regarding workers in certain sectors. The law requires employers to pay for for foreign workers’ overtime hours; this payment is required from the first minute beyond the regular daily or weekly working hours.

The workweek in Israel today consists of a total of 42 hours per week. Foreign workers whose workweek extends beyond 42 hours are entitled to overtime payment starting from the 43rd working hour. Compensation for overtime is calculated according to the number of weekly working days, bearing in mind that the worker is entitled to one shortened working day per week.

An employee whose workweek is 5 working days is entitled to be paid for overtime 4 days a week if they work more than 8.5 hours a day. On the shortened working day, they are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 7.5 hours. For those whose workweek is 6 days long, entitlement to compensation begins when they work over 8 hours, and on the shortened work day when they work over 7 hours.

It is important to clarify that the right to receive payment for overtime cannot be waived. This means that, as a general rule, even when foreign workers and their employers agree on a fixed hourly payment, without additional payment for overtime, this agreement has no legal validity. The labor courts have nullified such contracts many times, and established an obligation to compensate workers who did not receive payment for overtime at their workplace.

Does this apply to foreign workers living with their employers and in other individual cases?

Regarding the nursing sector, an important Supreme Court ruling established that there is no entitlement to overtime in cases where foreign nursing workers live with their patients (who are considered by law to be their employers). Since then the law has been amended to state that overtime will not be paid in cases where the employers lack the ability to supervise their employees’ working hours. This means that for jobs such as nursing care, where there are “spontaneous” rest hours (for example, when the patient is sleeping), no payment is given for overtime.

It is important to clarify that each case is examined individually, and there are conflicting court rulings courts on the subject. In some rulings, it was determined that overtime must be paid in a specific case, and in others it was determined that overtime should not be paid. It should also be noted that in certain employment sectors or in certain workplaces there may be additional rules, resulting from exceptions to the law or additional instructions regarding specific sectors. In the case of any doubt, it is advisable to contact an attorney specializing in labor law in order to clarify the situation accurately.

Contact a lawyer specializing in Israeli immigration law and the field of foreign workers

For any question or issue that arises regarding the working hours and rights of nursing workers in Israel, you can contact our law office. An attorney specializing in labor law from our office, who specializes in the field of foreign workers, will be happy to provide you with comprehensive legal assistance on this and a variety of other issues.

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