Once upon a time, not so long ago, we woke up every morning, drove to work, signed in using the attendance card at the designated place, spent about 9 hours in our workplace, and as the nine hours ended we headed home.

From the time we left the workplace until the following morning, we didn’t deal with any work matters, except in unusual cases, in which we received an urgent phone call.

Things were simple. Our employers paid us for the work hours we actually carried out, and in some cases workers received additional payment for off-hours duty, during which they had to be available but didn’t need to physically attend the workplace.

Today, however, as a result of technological advances, work is constantly leaking into our hours of rest. We receive emails to our mobile phones, we work remotely using our home computer, our managers create WhatsApp groups that are active 24/7, and we find ourselves without any defined hours of rest.

We get the sense that we, as individuals, are at our employer’s service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Is that really the case?

Is it not also the other way around and hours of rest get mixed in work hours as well? Can we say with certainty that today that employees, while being in the place of work, are not engaged in matters that are not work?

One of the leading global companies conducted an anonymous survey that revealed that the average employee (an employee working in the office) handles all his or her domestic matters during work hours. The survey also revealed that employees surfs at least 75 minutes each day on the Internet and social networks, and no, they don’t do that during lunch.

If we determine that the hours of work and rest cannot be fully separated, can we also determine that there is no reason to pay overtime for work performed by the employee from home? Are employees obligated to answer from home to an email message sent by the employer after work hours? How can we determine whether a work done from home should be considered additional work.

In order to answer these questions we must examine the essence of the Hours of Work and Rest Law. This law was enacted back during the 1950s. It stipulated that a working day shall not exceed 8 hours and that a working week shall not exceed 47 hours. The Hours of Work and Rest Law was enacted in order to regulate employment and provide employees with definite hours of rest.

At the same time, however, there was a clear distinction between work and after-work hours, it was clear what are the work hours and what are hours of rest, and in most homes mom or dad returned home from work at 17:00 and until the following morning they were dedicated to their family and kids.

Let’s return to 2018. Consider an average family with two parents, two kids and a dog. What we see today is different and sometimes even disturbing. The entire family is busy with technological gadgets, one replies a message, the other talks to a friend or colleague, and the third is writing an email to a customer who contacted her a few minutes ago.

Does the time spent on “work matters”, when we work remotely using a laptop or a mobile phone, can be considered work hours for which the employer is required to pay us overtime.

This topic was addressed recently by the Regional Labor Court.

The case involves a lawyer who claimed she had to work around the clock since her employer constantly was sending her WhatsApp messages late night or early morning hours. She claimed that by doing so he forced her to work many additional hours. The court rejected the employee’s claim, and noted that these were minor thongs and that cases in which an employer sends a message or an email or calls an employee shall not fall within the definition of overtime work hours[1].

So, how can we act in order to enable our employees to perform their jobs, enjoy all the technological means available and still provide them continuous and quality rest time.

We recommend distinguishing between urgent matters and matters that can wait for the following work day, to think twice before pressing the Send key during after-work hours, especially late night hours.

Respect your employees and managers hours of rest, do not abuse technology, and avoid convincing yourself that “I just sent the message… It’s her choice to read it now…”

 

This article does not constitute legal consultation.

 

[1] The ruling is currently examined by the National Court and has not yet been finelized

[2] Work + Rest all rights reserved to Dr. Hani Gindler Ofek

 

 

The article was written by Orit Raanan and Co., Law Firm. Email: orit@oraanan-law.co.il

Orit Raanan is the founder of the firm. She specializes in labor law and represents employers and employees in senior positions

 

 

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