05. Employers and Employees

Some types of work are permitted le-khatḥila on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, including those activities done to provide food (as we explained above in 11:3), for bodily needs and healing (11:5-6), and for communal needs such as public transportation (11:15), road maintenance (below, section 9), and basic functioning of the banks and courts (below, section 13). Other work may not be done, unless it is to prevent loss.

A business owner who is not permitted to work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed must let his employees know from the outset that the business will be closed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. He must explain to them that they will be on vacation then, and that Ḥol Ha-mo’ed will count toward the vacation days to which they are entitled by law.

In Israel, every employee is entitled to a certain number of vacation days each year (minimum two weeks). Someone who works at a job that may not be done on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed must insist that Ḥol Ha-mo’ed be included in his yearly vacation days. This is true even if it entails a certain loss. For example, he is required to take off on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed even if his employer allows people to leave early on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, so if he takes them as vacation days he will have “wasted” his vacation days on shorter workdays. Similarly, if his family would like to take a long vacation in the summer, but they will have to cut the vacation short if he uses up his vacation days on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, he must still take vacation days on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed.[4]

If there is a great deal of pressure at work, and it is demanded of workers that they work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed and take their vacation days at a different time, they may do so if otherwise the business will sustain a large loss and as long as it is a one-time crisis that does not repeat itself every year. If this is the case, it is considered a davar ha-aved, and the employees may work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. However, if according to halakha the business should not be open at all on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, yet the employer requires the employee to work, he may not listen to him. If it is possible that if he refuses to work he will lose his job, then even though the employer making this demand is committing a serious transgression, for this employee it is a davar ha-aved, and he may work (SSK 67:11 and n. 32).


[4]. Nowadays in the State of Israel, by law a business owner may tell his workers in advance that Ḥol Ha-mo’ed will be included in their legally mandated vacation days. Then he will not lose out due to the business being closed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. See SSK 67:14 and n. 47. In contrast, there are countries where the law requires that workers be paid for each workday, and this includes the days of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Some say that a business owner in such a country may keep his business open then. If he closes it on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, he will need to pay the workers even though they did not work, thus sustaining a loss (Erekh Shai on SA 537; Responsa Maharshag 2:78; AHS 533:3; Ḥazon Ovadia, p. 182). Others forbid opening the business, maintaining that this would not be preventing a loss. After all, the owner has been aware all along that he must pay a monthly salary, even though on Shabbat and holidays no one works (Rabbi Moshe Provencalo; Zera Emet 3:56; R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in SSK ch. 67 n. 40). See also Ḥol Ha-mo’ed Ke-hilkhato 9:29. In any case, nowadays in Israel a business owner is legally entitled to include the days of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed in a worker’s vacation days. If he was negligent by not stipulating this when he hired them, then the more stringent opinion should be followed, since this negligence is similar to intentionally planning to work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. If a great loss is involved, a halakhic authority should be consulted.

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