Israeli employment law protects pregnant women in several ways. In fact, there are some benefits that start even before pregnancy if a woman is undergoing fertility treatments. Full days off for fertility treatment are treated as sick days and individual hours can also be deducted (up to 40 hours a year for a full time employee). A woman cannot be fired or have her salary changed during an absence due to fertility treatments.
A woman is obligated to inform her employer of her pregnancy during her fifth month. Likewise, a woman who is hired at a new job while pregnant doesn’t have to disclose her pregnancy prior to accepting the job, unless she has reached month 5. Some women choose to let their employer know earlier, either because they are feeling sick and may not be performing at optimal level or in order to give their bosses more time to find a maternity leave replacement. The law allowing women to wait till five months protects them against discrimination, so each employee should consider carefully when the best time to disclose a pregnancy is.
Discrimination against pregnant women, in the hiring process or in the workplace, is illegal. A woman who was discriminated against can sue her employer in the labor court. This includes a prohibition of firing a pregnant woman because she is pregnant. If a company wants to fire a pregnant woman for a different reason, and that woman has worked at the company for more than 6 months, the employer must obtain special permission to fire her. A common case would be a company that is laying off many workers due to budget cuts and wants to include a pregnant woman in the general layoff. If a pregnant woman was fired without special permission, it is considered as if she was never fired.
Employers are also prohibited from lowering the salary or work scope of a pregnant woman, regardless of how long she has worked at the company.
It is prohibited to require a pregnant woman to work overtime or night shifts. However, she can work overtime if she has consented in writing and provided a letter from her OB/GYN that there is no need to refrain from overtime. A woman can be asked to work at night (at least two hours between 10 PM and 6 AM) but she is within her rights to refuse in writing.
If a woman has a documented high-risk pregnancy and is absent from work for 30 days or more, she is entitled to a Bed Rest Benefit from Bituach Leumi.
A pregnant woman can be absent from work for routine pregnancy tests for up to 40 hours (for a full time employee). These hours are paid for by the employer as if she worked. A part time employee is entitled to this benefit as well, relative to the number of hours she works on a regular basis.
The spouse of a pregnant woman is entitled to use 7 days of their sick days due to her pregnancy or childbirth. This includes accompanying her to appointments and being present for childbirth. He can also utilize 3 vacation days after the birth of the child. If he wishes to take 4 or 5 days, those extra two days can be considered sick days. These days are not considered maternity leave and don’t negate the spouse’s right to split maternity leave with his wife.
For more information on the rights of pregnant women in the workplace, see the Kol Zchut website.