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Israeli soldiers are not considered employees of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and are not subject to the application of civilian labor laws.  Military rules, however, provide specific family and medical leave benefits to both male and female soldiers who are either conscripts or permanent-service soldiers.

Generally, permanent-service personnel enjoy more extensive family and medical leave rights than conscripts.  Whereas pregnancy is usually a cause for termination of a conscript’s mandatory service, female permanent-service soldiers continue to serve during pregnancy and are entitled to various leave benefits associated with pregnancy and maternity.  Both male and female permanent-service soldiers are also entitled to paid leave to undertake fertility treatment.  IDF rules for permanent-service soldiers authorize the granting of leave during a spouse’s pregnancy and childbirth, as well as following the birth or adoption of a child.  The rules similarly authorize the approval of leave to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent, as well as for bereavement.  In addition, the rules permit shortening the work day for permanent-service soldiers who are nursing mothers and for parents of young children.                      

As compared with permanent-service personnel, male conscripts enjoy more limited paternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child.  All conscripts, male or female alike, enjoy special leave owing to the injury, illness, or death of first of kin.  Conscripts may also get approved special leave for other personal reasons. 

I.  Introduction

Israeli nationals, men and women alike, are generally subject to mandatory conscription into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on reaching the age of eighteen.[1] Soldiers who either continue their military service or are recruited back into the military after their regular service are considered soldiers of the IDF “permanent service.”  These soldiers are usually older than regular conscripts.  The IDF recognizes that service in the IDF, either during the mandatory period or in the permanent service, varies from employment in the civilian sector.[2]

One of the principal differences between military service and regular employment is that soldiers are not subject to the application of regular labor laws that apply to employees in the civilian sector, including those employed by the state.[3] Accordingly, the rules that apply to the family-related leave of soldiers are based on military orders and not on civilian legislation,[4] such as the Hours of Work and Rest Law, 5711-1951[5] or Employment of Women Law 5714-1954.[6]

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II.  Leave Benefits for Permanent Service Soldiers

Pregnancy and parenting leave benefits for IDF permanent-service soldiers are contained in General Staff Order 36.0406 (GSO 36.0406), titled “Benefits Due to Pregnancy and Parenthood.”[7] A description of family and medical leave benefits is also provided in the Information to the New Permanent Service Member Bulletin (INPSMB) that was issued by IDF in March 2013.[8] The following is a summary of benefits that apply to military personnel in permanent service based on these documents.

A.  Maternity Leave

1.  Special Pregnancy Leave

A female permanent-service soldier (FPSS) who suffers from pregnancy complications is entitled to “special pregnancy leave,” the duration of which will be determined by authorized military medical personnel.[9] This type of special leave will not be deducted from saved sick leave.[10]

An FPSS will be paid during her special pregnancy leave an amount equal to two days for every month she has been in service (including both mandatory and permanent service).  Once the amount paid to her based on this formula has been exhausted, the leave will be unpaid.[11]

2.  Regular Maternity Leave

An FPSS is entitled to paid maternity leave of fourteen weeks or ninety-eight days.  The period of paid leave may start seven weeks prior to the birth.[12]

3.  Extended Maternity Leave

a.  Extended Hospitalization

According to GSO 36.0406 maternity leave can be extended for four additional weeks if the FPSS or the child must remain in the hospital or return to the hospital during the maternity leave for a period of at least two weeks.[13]

The 2013 edition of the INPSMB also requires that the FPSS’s or her baby’s hospitalization be for more than fourteen consecutive days to qualify the FPSS for extended leave.  If the FPSS is hospitalized for this period she qualifies for up to four weeks extended leave, and up to ten weeks if the baby is hospitalized.[14]

b.  Multiple Births

An FPSS who in one birth delivers more than one child may extend her paid maternity leave by three weeks for each child born in the same birth.[15]

4.  Shortened Maternity Leave

An FPSS who has delivered a stillborn baby may request shortened maternity leave provided that she was due to be on leave for at least three weeks after the delivery.[16] 

5.  Unpaid Leave

An FPSS is also entitled to leave without pay for the remainder of a period that, including regular maternity leave and other accumulated leave, does not exceed one year.[17]

B.  Paternity Leave

1.  Paid Leave Following Birth of Child

An IDF male permanent-service soldier (MPSS) whose wife is entitled to maternity leave may take partial leave instead of his spouse.  The period of parental leave taken by the MPSS may start six weeks following the delivery of a baby and may last for the remainder of the maternity leave to which the MPSS’s wife is entitled, including both paid and unpaid leave.[18]

In order to take paternity leave following the birth of his child the MPSS must notify his commander of his intention to use such leave at least two months prior to the estimated start of the leave.[19]

2.  Paid Leave for Spouse’s Pregnancy and Delivery

An MPSS is entitled to leave of up to seven days a year for medical exams and treatment related to his wife’s pregnancy and childbirth.  This leave can be taken during the pregnancy and up to a week following the delivery.  As with all other paid leave for care of next of kin, leave taken to care for the spouse will be deducted from the annual thirty days of sick leave to which all permanent service soldiers are entitled.[20]

3.  Unpaid Leave

An MPSS is entitled to unpaid leave if his spouse is entitled to such leave if she is a soldier, or if she has been employed for a period of at least six months consecutively up to the beginning of his absence from work if she is not a soldier.[21]

An MPSS is similarly entitled to unpaid leave if the child is under his sole custody or care because of his spouse’s disability or illness.[22]

C.  Adoption and Leave Rights

An FPSS who adopts a child who is thirteen years of age or younger is entitled to the same rights of maternity leave and leave without pay enjoyed by FPSSs who have given birth.[23]

An MPSS who adopts a child under the age of ten is entitled to ten days’ leave, which will be deducted from his annual leave.[24]

D.  Leave for Fertility Treatments

Both FPSSs and MPSSs are entitled to sixteen or twelve days’ leave, respectively, for fertility treatments to accommodate “a medical problem of the permanent-service soldier or of his (female) spouse.”[25]

E.  Parental Leave

1.  Regular Parental Leave to Care for a Sick Child

Both FPSSs and MPSSs who are parents of a sick child are entitled to leave to care for their child.  Such leave may be approved for any parent who has custody of a child younger than sixteen years of age when the child’s other parent works and is not absent from his/her work because of the child’s illness.  The annual leave for care of a child under these circumstances may extend to eight days for one child and up to sixteen days for all the children under the parent’s care.[26]

2.  Extended Leave to Care for Terminally Ill Child

Extended sick leave of up to 110 days annually may be approved for a parent who has custody of a child younger than eighteen years of age who has a terminal illness.  Eligibility for extended leave under these circumstances may be approved for a soldier who has been in continuous service for at least one year.[27]

When the other parent of a terminally ill child is absent from work because of the child’s illness, the soldier may take leave for a period of ninety days under the same conditions of length of service and custody.[28]

3.  Leave to Care for a Child with Disabilities

Both parents may take up to fifteen days annually to care for a child with disabilities.[29]

F.  Other Types of Family or Caregiver Leave

1.  Leave for Care of a Spouse

Both FPSSs and MPSSs may take six days of leave annually to care for a spouse who, owing to his or her situation, is completely dependent on help from other people for the performance of daily tasks.  Leave of care for a spouse under these circumstances requires the submission of proper medical documentation.[30]

2.  Shortened Work Day for Parents

a.  Nursing Mothers

An FPSS who is not on leave and nurses a child is entitled to end her work day an hour earlier.[31]

b.  Mothers of Young Children

An FPSS who is the mother of a child thirteen years of age or younger may request to be released one hour before the end of the regular day of work as long as this is not before 4:30 p.m.[32]

A commander at a rank of lieutenant colonel or higher, however, may generally permit an FPSS mother of a child aged six years or younger to end her work day at 4:00 p.m.  Five days of leave will be deducted from the annual leave of an FPSS who has been ending her work day at 4:00 p.m.[33]

c.  Fathers Who Are Single Parents

A commander at a rank of lieutenant colonel or higher is authorized to release an MPSS who is a single parent and has permanent custody of a child aged thirteen years or younger an hour before the end of the regular work day.[34]

3.  Parent’s Sickness

FPSSs and MPSSs alike are entitled to paid leave of up to six days a year to care for a sick parent aged sixty-five years or older who is completely dependent on personal help to perform regular daily tasks, provided that no other sibling has used his/her right to be absent from work to care for the parent and the parent is not in a nursing facility.[35]

G.  Bereavement

A soldier who has lost next of kin is entitled to paid leave for a minimum of eight days from the date of the death until the end of the Shiva (“seven” in Hebrew; “sitting shiva” is a Jewish mourning custom that requires mourning the death of first of kin for seven days following the death).[36]

In addition to the eight days of leave following the death of a relative for whom Jews customarily sit shiva, a bereaved soldier is entitled to leave on the thirtieth day following the death of the next of kin and on the deceased’s yearly memorial date.  Children of bereaved military families are entitled to additional leave on the national Memorial Day.[37]

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III.  Mandatory Service Leave Benefits

Soldiers in mandatory service are entitled to fewer benefits compared with those who are in permanent service.

A.  Maternity Leave

The service of female soldiers who get married or become pregnant during their mandatory service is terminated except if they volunteer to continue service in spite of the marriage or pregnancy.[38]

B.  Paternity Leave

According to the IDF personnel division website, a soldier whose wife has given birth is entitled to special leave for eight days.[39] The approval of special leave results in the deduction of five days from the soldier’s annual leave.[40]

C.  Adoption and Leave Rights

A soldier who has adopted, with a court’s approval, a child aged ten years or younger is entitled to the same special leave as that awarded to a soldier whose wife has given birth.[41]

D.  Parental Leave

Seven days’ paid leave may be approved by a commander at a rank of lieutenant colonel or higher if the commander has determined that the soldier’s presence at his or her home is required to attend to the injury or illness of next of kin.[42] This type of leave could therefore be approved for the purpose of parental care.

E.  Any Type of Family or Caregiver Leave

According to military rules, soldiers may obtain approval for special leave “for personal/economic or [other] special reasons as provided in military orders.”[43] Orders specifying possible reasons for granting such approval have not been identified, however.

F.  Bereavement

Like IDF permanent-service soldiers, soldiers who sit shiva for their next of kin during their mandatory service are entitled to eight days of paid leave until the end of the shiva, in addition to one day of paid leave on the thirtieth day and on the yearly memorial date following the death of the relative.[44]

Children of bereaved military families are also entitled to paid leave on the national Memorial Day.[45]

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Prepared by Ruth Levush
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
June 2014
 


[1] Defense Service Law (Consolidated Version), 5746-1986, 40 Laws of the State of Israel [LSI] 112 (5746-1985/86, as amended, up-to-date text available on the Nevo Legal Database at http://www.nevo.co.il (in Hebrew; by subscription).  For special arrangements and the controversy associated with the conscription of Ultra-Orthodox Jews, see Ruth Levush, Israeli Conscription Laws for Ultra-Orthodox Jews, In Custodia Legis (Apr. 17, 2014), http://blogs.loc.gov/law/2014/04/israeli-conscription-laws-for-ultra-orthodox-jews/.

[2] Israel Defense Forces (IDF), The New Permanent Service Member Bulletin (INPSMB) 3 (3rd ed., Mar. 2013), http://aka.idf.il/Sip_ storage/files/5/70765.pdf (in Hebrew).

[3] HCJ 279/72 Ilan Oved v. Minister of Defense, 28(1) Piske Din [PD] 169 (5733/34-1973).

[4] Id. at 172.

[5] Hours of Work and Rest Law, 5711-1951, 5 LSI 125 (5711-1950/51), as amended.

[6] Employment of Women Law 5714-1954, 8 LSI 128 (5714-1953/54), as amended.

[7] The full text of GSO 36.0406 is currently unavailable on the IDF website either in English or Hebrew.  See http://www.idf.il/english/ and http://www.idf.il/, respectively.  However, an undated, full text of the order has been identified on the following law firm website: Katz & Company Law Office, http://www.court-martial.co.il/ commands.aspx?article=8 (in Hebrew; last visited June 25, 2014). 

[8] INPSMB, supra note 2.  Based on its current availability on the IDF website, it is assumed that information provided in the INPSMB incorporates amendments to GSO 36.0406.

[9] GSO 36.0406 §§ 3–4.

[10] Id. § 4.

[11] Id. § 5.

[12] Id. § 8; INPSMB, supra note 2, at 54.

[13] GSO 36.0406 §§ 9–10.

[14] INPSMB, supra note 2, at 55.

[15] Id.; GSO 36.0406 § 13.

[16] GSO 36.0406 § 11.

[17] Id. § 18.

[18] INPSMB, supra note 2, at 58.

[19] Id.

[20] Id. at 52.

[21] GSO 36.0406 § 19 A. (1).

[22] Id. § 19A(2).

[23] Id. § 20.

[24] INPSMB, supra note 2, at 48. 

[25] Id. at 52.

[26] Id.

[27] Id. at 53.

[28] Id.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] GSO 36.0406 § 23.

[32] Id. § 25.

[33] Id. § 26.

[34] Id. § 27.

[35] INPSMB, supra note 2, at 52.

[36] Death & Bereavement in Judaism: Death and Mourning, Jewish Virtual Library, https://www.jewishvirtual library.org/jsource/Judaism/death.html (last visited June 25, 2014).

[37] INPSMB, supra note 2, at 48.

[38] GSO 31.0109 – Release of Soldiers in Mandatory Service Due to Marriage or Pregnancy § 2 (effective Oct. 5, 1995), http://www.army.co.il/page/135 (in Hebrew).  The order is temporarily unavailable on the IDF website.

[39] Family Leave § 2, IDF Personnel Website, http://www.aka.idf.il/rights/asp/info.asp?moduleId=5&catId= 22707&docId=22744 (in Hebrew, last visited June 25, 2014).

[40] Special Leave, IDF Personnel Website, http://www.aka.idf.il/rights/asp/info.asp?moduleId=5&catId=22707 &docId=22743 (in Hebrew; last visited June 25, 2014).

[41] Family Leave, supra note 39.

[42] Id. § 7.

[43] Special Leave, supra note 40, § 1 (translated by author, R.L.).

[44] Family Leave, supra note 39, § 5.

[45] Id. § 6.