Law would give Israeli women same pay as male counterparts

JERUSALEM — New Knesset legislation will for the first time give Israeli women the same salaries and benefits as their male counterparts.

The equal pay for equal work law mandates that men and women who work for the same employer at the same place of work are entitled to equal salaries for essentially similar or equivalent work.

The law also stipulates that men and women in comparable jobs must receive the same benefits.

According to several surveys conducted by Linda Efroni, an economist and employment expert, the salary differential between men and women in Israel has risen steadily over the years.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the salary gap in the public sector stood at 22 percent; by the end of the decade, that number had climbed to 28 percent.

In the early 1990s — the last time a survey was conducted — the gap had risen to 32 percent.

Much of the discrepancy, the surveys found, was because employers tended to give valuable benefits to male employees, but not necessarily to female ones.

In Israel, it is commonplace to supplement a worker's salary with telephone, car and clothing allowances, as well as with other benefits worth thousands of shekels.

The surveys indicated that even when women earned the same base salary as men, they were often forced to pay for their own work clothes, gas and car insurance.

Praising the new legislation, Orit Sulitzeanu, spokeswoman for the Israel Women's Network, said, "It goes a long way in redressing past discriminatory practices against women in the workplace.

"By acknowledging that benefits like telephone and car allowances constitute a component of a worker's salary, it will help prohibit employers from favoring one employee over another."

While the network and other organizations are hailing the law as a breakthrough for women's rights, they are concerned about its loopholes.

Said Sulitzeanu: "Seniority can be affected when women go out on maternity leave, giving an employer an excuse to pay her an unequal salary."