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Responding department: Labour Relations Unit, Ministry of Economy

Note: This response was provided by the Israeli Government.

Has your government taken any initiatives to reduce companies’ negative impacts on human rights that you consider particularly successful?

Several rights at workplace were defined as human rights by courts- labour courts and high court. Among them freedom of association, the right of strike, the right of personal privacy. Enforcement of labour laws and rights at work became a central issue in the activities of the ministry. A new comprehensive law of tightening enforcement of labour laws and several extension orders was enacted and came into force during 2012.New and more inspectors were recruited in order to strengthen enforcement by administrative fines. The initiative to legislate this important law and shaping its content were accompanied by series of discussions with social partners - the unions and employers' organizations and with several associations which render services and advocacy to fragile sectors such as migrant workers, agency workers, persons with disabilities.

National Labour Court decisions help to maintain basic human rights such as the freedom of association, the right of strike and the right to privacy at workplace.

Our unit assists keeping human rights by its authority backed by law by denial of registration of collective agreements that discriminative clauses are included in the signed agreement.

What department or departments have significant responsibility for business and human rights within your government?

The department in charge of enforcement at the ministry, finance ministry concerning public sector issues and tenders issued for outsourced services supplied by agencies workers.

Has your government undertaken new business & human rights initiatives or strengthened existing ones since the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles in June 2011?

Yes.

What are the top 5 priority issues that your government has taken steps to address since June 2011?

Types of company impacts prioritised:

  • Forced labour & trafficking
  • Discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • Other core labour rights (including freedom of association & trade union rights)
  • Freedom of expression & right to privacy

Actions on forced labour & trafficking

A severe law was legislated several years ago referring to women's abuse and trafficking following principles of conventions on that matter. The definitions of the felony were extended by that legislation and the enforcement authorities was focuses. More cases were brought to justice and punishment by court decisions were aggravated.

Actions on discrimination

On the issue of discrimination - Equality at Work Unit was constructed in the ministry. This unit apart from advocacy and researches got the authority to join proceedings at labour courts in order to back the appellants in their suit against their employer.

Decisions of precedential significance were released lately by Labour National Court concerning freedom of association preventing any interference of employer in unionising process especially in case of initial association. Following the law of equal opportunities at work, a new collective agreement was signed lately between social partners stating that workplaces comprising 100 employees and more are committed to employee persons with disabilities at rate of 2% of their workforce.

Actions on sexual harrassment

Sexual Harassment - A law which defines this kind of harassment was legislated several years ago. It caused much more complaints in criminal area as well in civil suits. The awareness is higher today and there is an obligation by law to nominate an employee in workplace who deals with these cases.

Actions on core labour rights (including freedom of association)

Freedom of Association became a big issue [in the] last years since there is a wave of new trend of unionisation. It appeals to young workers in new sectors that did not use to organise such as mortgage banks, financial institutes, cellular firms, restaurants and even large firms in [high tech] sector. An amendment to collective agreements law in 2009 strengthen[s] that movement by giving an immunity to employee activists who are active in organising in workplace. It also allows union members to get in workplace in order to organise workers. Breaching of these law clauses results [in] significant amount of fines. Lately a district labour court ruled that a firm which tries to prevent employees from organising should pay a large sum to the organising union

Actions on freedom of expression & privacy

Right of Privacy is considered as part of basic law – human dignity and liberty. The right of privacy was discussed in cases that were brought to [the] National Labour Court. This court ruled against restriction of employers toward private emails of employees during their working time. As a basic principle employer is prevente[d] from reading private emails or [from] reveal[ing] them. If cameras are install[ed] in work positions the worker must be informed by [the] employer.

Has your government adopted a National Action Plan on business and human rights as encouraged by the UN Human Rights Council and UN Working Group on business & human rights, or will it do so in the future?

This question does not apply.

Access to remedy: What steps have been taken to develop new judicial or administrative remedies or to reduce barriers to existing remedies for victims?

There is an easy way to file a law suit concerning language or formal barriers by the employee personally to labour court. The fees for this action are minimal. The proceedings are far from being formal.

There are laws (such as quality of opportunities law) that grant injury sums by court discretion without the need of proof of size of injury. Burden of proof is transmitted to employer in some cases.

[NGOs] and unions are very active in advocacy and representing fragile sectors at courts.

Access to remedy: What steps have been taken to develop new non-judicial remedies, improve existing mechanisms, and reduce barriers for victims?

Government initiates campaigns in radio, t.v. and street banners concerning rights and information in that sense.

Conciliation proceedings are in the core of unit in plant level disputes and others.

ADR systems [mediation, arbitration, and dispute resolution services for commercial and personal injury] became popular and government with social partners has signed a treaty to encourage these trends.

Access to remedy: For companies headquartered in your country or their subsidiaries, has your government taken steps to enhance accountability for human rights impacts abroad?

This question does not apply.

Which factors impede your government’s ability to take action on business and human rights?

Significant factors are:

  • Lack of resources for enforcement, monitoring and prosecution
  • Opposition or lack of consensus within government
  • Opposition by economic interest groups or business associations
  • Challenges of coordinating across government departments

Minor factors are:

  • Other opposition by influential people or groups outside government  
  • Concern about deterring foreign investment
  • Lack of understanding or awareness of business & human rights in government

What, if any, form of support would your government welcome the most to help advance its actions to improve companies’ impacts on human rights?

Please share with us any further comments, including ideas for future collaboration and shared learning to advance business & human rights.