Protecting Foreign Workers in Court

20 July 2023

Israel has had a law on the books since 2016 that required employers of foreign workers to deposit money from those workers’ salaries into a designated bank account for the employees social benefits. The foreign workers can get those funds (money that they already earned) only if they leave Israel before their visa expires. 

This week, the High Court of Justice struck down those regulations following a petition by NIF grantees Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Kav LaOved – Workers Hotline. In a six-to-one ruling, the High Court ruled that the regulations are disproportionate and violate the constitutional property rights of foreign workers. The court ordered the Knesset and relevant government ministries to formulate a new arrangement within six months.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin and other members of the coalition reacted furiously. Levin alleged that this decision will encourage illegal immigration to Israel and harm the Jewish identity of the state. He also noted that it is precisely his kind of ruling that demonstrates why this government is seeking to stifle the power of the Supreme Court. “If anyone had any doubt why profound reform is needed in the justice system, they got their answer again in another ruling,” he said.

Kav LaOved and ACRI said, “A law that allows the appropriation of pension funds and the dismissal of employees is an evil law, and it shouldn’t be overlooked that nowhere else in this world has an arrangement like that. Those who were invited to work in Israel in difficult jobs are entitled, like any other employee, to the rights they earn at work.”

They added, “It is clear to us that coalition members will now move to impugn the High Court, which does not allow them to do whatever they like. We remind them that human rights belong to every person, even if they have no political power, and the role of the Supreme Court is to stop the Knesset and government, when they trample rights.”