By Ehud Ein-Gil, Kav LaOved Volunteer
In early 2012, a worker from Qalqilya, who had been injured a year and a half earlier, turned to Kav LaOved for help. The worker received treatment for his injury at an Israeli hospital and the Medical Board of the Palestinian Authority confirmed that he could not return to work for 34 days. The worker said that he and his employer completed and submitted the required forms to the National Insurance Institute (NII). However, he never received a response.
In March 2012 I submitted a letter to the local NII branch in the worker’s name with a request for details regarding his claim. Two months passed without a response. At the end of May I sent a reminder and in June I received an answer. The NII rejected his claim on the grounds that his employer did not properly complete the required form.
According to National Insurance Law, workers rights are not to be effected by employer non-cooperation. In such a case, the claims officer is required send the file to the NII Investigations Department to clarify whether there was an active employer-worker agreement at the time of the accident, and if so, if the worker was injured at the workplace. If both answers are positive, the NII must recognize the claim.
In this case it seems that the NII took advantage of the worker by illegally rejecting the claim. He was hoodwinked by the NII, which “wins” by not having to pay the claim if a worker does not appeal the rejection. This worker was a Palestinian from the Territories who did not speak Hebrew very well and did not know the regulations. The NII bet on the possibility that the worker’s motivation would be weakened by the rejection so he would forgo the claim.
I called the employer who told me that he had received the request from the NII to complete and sign the forms, which he did, and submitted them to the NII. I asked if he would be willing to do it again.
The worker had a permit to work in Israel, however, his employer did not pay the salary directly but rather through the Payroll Department at the Ministry of Interior. This made it possible to see the worker’s exact salary from which the NII could then calculate the payment due on the claim.
As soon as all the documents were in my hands, I sent an appeal asking to reopen the file and I attached both the form signed by the employer and the printout of the worker’s salary from the Ministry of Interior Payroll Department. I hoped that the NII would follow protocol and reopen the file. I was surprised. This time the answer arrived very quickly – within three weeks. The content also surprised me; the appeal was rejected. The NII, it seems, is sticking to the “hoodwink” system.
The following is my response to the Claims Officer at the local NII branch, with a copy sent to the NII main office in Jerusalem.
“I was surprised to see the continued rejection of the claim. Let me remind you that according to your letter of 22.3.2011 the basis for rejection was that the employer did not complete pages 6 and 7 of the claim form. However, according to the law, employer non-cooperation is not a basis for denying the rights of the injured worker to recognition and payment of the workplace injury claim. I ask you to reconsider your decision and save the worker the need to file a complaint in Labor Court, for in accordance with the legal opinion I received, there is no doubt that the court will decide in favor of the worker and the NII will have to pay the court fees.”
Another appeal was sent during the first week in September 2012 but there was no response. However, a month later, a letter arrived stating that the case was reopened and the injury was recognized as a workplace injury. Another month had passed when the worker called to report that 2,600 NIS were deposited into his bank account. The sum was received more than two years after the accident.
In most cases the NII will send a letter stating the terms of recognition prior to depositing payment into a claimant’s bank account. However, no such letter was received.
In order to finally close the file, in December 2013 I requested that the NII send me a report detailing the payment. It arrived in mid-February and clearly showed that the worker received a total of 2,635 NIS: 2,487 NIS as payment for the workplace injury claim and 148 NIS as interest due to the delay in payment.
This piece was first published in Hebrew on the Kav LaOved website on 23.2.2014
Translation: Sharon Kerpel