Orly established and now heads HFN’s labour and employment department, with over 20 years of experience in the field. Widely regarded as the leading employment law attorney in Israel, Orly advises international and domestic clients in the public and private sectors on all aspects of labour and employment law and labour relations, as well as employee benefits, executive compensation, collective relations, pensions, privacy and immigration.
What attracted you towards a career in the labour and employment field?
Employment law is interesting on both human and academic levels, and provides fulfilling, exciting work. Practising employment law within the commercial, inter-disciplinary environment of HFN has enabled me and my team to gain a wider business perspective in carrying out our work, and factor in other areas of law (eg, tax, IP, regulatory, securities and corporate), giving our practice greater depth. Practising law in such a dynamic, diverse environment provides a unique and interesting landscape in which to practise labour law.
Why did you decide to establish the employment group at HFN?
Both the managing partner and I realised that in order to have a full commercial practice and serve our clients as necessary, we needed a strong, professional employment team. We appreciated that employment law was critical to providing an excellent service in a wide range of areas, including M&A and litigation, and in our general ongoing advice to businesses, and we have certainly been proved right in this respect.
What are the advantages of practising labour law in a full-service commercial firm?
As the foremost Israeli law firm offering services comprising international labour expertise and the support of a robust corporate practice, we are able to combine the resources, experience and expertise normally found in a “boutique” employment law firm with the capabilities of Israel’s leading full-service, international law firm.
Unlike any other firm in Israel, our department practises international employment law – combining expertise in foreign jurisdictions by representing multinational companies in their local operations, and representing Israeli companies expanding overseas with the assistance of our department’s guidance and knowledge. The size, diversity and the resources available to our department, including administrative support and colleagues from other groups with expertise in relevant practice areas, enable us to engage in multiple matters, and advise and support clients on special projects – all while maintaining the highest level of service for their day-to-day business. Our business-oriented environment ultimately allows us to see the bigger picture and provide the practical, commercial advice our clients need.
In cross-border cases, how vital is knowledge of other cultures?
We believe it is crucial to understand our clients’ businesses and the cultures in which they operate to provide the level of service our clients need. We are able to achieve this due to our partners and associates who, in many cases, have studied or are qualified in multiple jurisdictions or have worked overseas and are familiar with the legal, cultural and linguistic issues relevant to our clients’ businesses. As a result, we have gained unparalleled experience working with international clients entering into, or operating in, the Israeli market and advising companies on their investments and businesses.
We have put much effort into participating in, organising and leading international conferences in the field, and ensuring that we remain up-to-date on the employment issues affecting the jurisdictions in which our clients operate.
To what extent can the law address workplace bullying and harassment?
The law is only one tool for addressing such issues. The law of course has a significant part to play: it must provide a strong incentive for employers to invest the time and resources required to eradicate behaviour that may not otherwise immediately affect their bottom line. We have seen that once the law “names” a phenomenon and a cause of action is defined with sanctions attached, this itself raises awareness of the issue.
Ultimately, education and a cultural shift as to what is considered appropriate conduct at work may have as much, if not more, impact on the issue as the law itself. We therefore aspire to see the law encourage employer-led education and training – for example, by allowing this to constitute a potential defence to claims.
In what ways are you active and involved in the development of employment law in Israel?
We do our best to contribute to the development of employment law in Israel. In particular, I am very active in organising the agenda for major conferences in the field and I take a large part in co-ordinating academic activities, courses and seminars for the Israeli Bar Association on employment law – with these events attended by law-makers and leading thinkers in the field. Furthermore, we seek to take an active part in the regulatory process by commenting on and issuing our firm’s position, and that of other organisations, on proposed legislation and making recommendations based on our knowledge and practical experience of the issues in question.
What developments do you anticipate in the coming years for the law relating to unionisation and the right to strike in Israel?
It is very difficult to say. There is much political unrest in Israel at the moment, and the issue of striking is one of the most controversial matters between the political parties. As such, at this stage it is hard to know in which direction this area will develop from a legislative perspective. However, we do see from the labour courts that employee rights around unionisation and collective employment relations are only getting stronger and stronger.
In what ways will artificial intelligence, algorithms and technology affect the future of employment law?
The influence of AI and technology in general is clearly very significant. We already see AI being harnessed in the hiring process to implement laws on equal opportunities in the workplace. Advancing technology now allows employees to work flexibly and from any location, and the existing legislation on working hours and rest breaks is becoming increasingly ineffectual and in need of updating. Just as employers and employee committees will ultimately have to accept and adjust to a new reality – with certain professions disappearing, and others needing to adapt to new-style working environments and ways of working, we believe that the legislature will do likewise and employment law will evolve accordingly.
Orly established and now heads Herzog Fox & Neeman’s labour and employment department, and has over 20 years of experience in the field. Widely regarded as the leading employment law attorney in Israel, Orly advises international and domestic clients in the public and private sectors on all aspects of labour and employment law and labour relations, as well as employee benefits, executive compensation, collective relations, pensions, privacy and immigration.
What motivated you to specialise in labour and employment law?
I was drawn to a career in this area since employment law is interesting, on both human and academic levels, and provides fulfilling and exciting work. Moreover, practising employment law within the commercial, interdisciplinary environment of HFN has enabled me (and all our team) to gain a wider business perspective in carrying out our work, and factor in other areas of law such as tax, IP, regulatory, securities and corporate, giving our practice greater depth.
Practising law in such a dynamic, diverse and fast-paced environment provides a unique and interesting landscape in which to practise labour law!
What do you enjoy most about your role as head of the firm’s labour and employment practice group?
Firstly, I love being a part of HFN, which never ceases to live up to its reputation as an exciting, interesting and fun place to work. Equally, however, I enjoy working with the partners, lawyers and interns in our department, knowing that we play an integral and key role in the organisation and generate developments within not only our group but the firm as a whole. Together, we are always looking at building up new areas within the scope of employment law, and in particular those that touch upon other practice areas, such as privacy, tax, IP and corporate.
How does your role as a member of the Israeli Association for Employment Law and Social Security enhance your work in private practice?
I am very active in organising the agenda for major conferences for the Association (as well as in coordinating academic activities, courses and seminars on employment law for the Israeli Bar Association), events that are attended by lawmakers and leading thinkers in the field.
Lecturing and writing for such forums enables us to keep up to date with legal developments and emerging trends, helping us to better advise our clients. Of course, our participation also allows us to display our professional knowledge and talents directly to clients and others who can refer work to us on that basis.
To what extent is having a strong international presence an important factor in building a successful labour and employment practice?
Advising international clients has been a cornerstone of Herzog Fox & Neeman over the years, and our firm, and the employment department in particular, has a strong international presence. This has been achieved through our work with international academic and business forums, and our unparalleled experience in working with international companies on their investments and businesses, whether in transactions, litigation or ongoing legal representation. This means that we continually learn about the legal regimes and cultures in our clients’ jurisdictions, enabling us to better understand and serve our clients’ interests.
What impact has the increased emphasis on employers’ behavioural obligations and providing a healthy work environment had on the nature of your advice in recent years?
It is clear that our clients’ focus has moved away from the consideration of purely financial employment entitlements (minimum wage, annual leave, pension, severance, etc) to a greater interest in creating a more holistic, accommodating (but no less productive) working environment. This is not only a result of increasing legal obligations, but a reflection of the digital age in which we live, combined with the “war on talent” and the demands of a new generation of employees. As such, we carefully consider HR, managerial and internal communications perspectives when giving legal advice, for example, on matters such as the prevention of sexual harassment and bullying, employee privacy and work–life balance issues.
What are the main challenges lawyers in Israel are facing as a result of the growing restrictions and obligations on employers being imposed by the national labour courts?
Employment law has always been an area of constant change and development. New restrictions and obligations, of which there are many, inevitably create a degree of insecurity, especially where their scope may not be strictly defined, raising doubts and questions. As a result, one of the main challenges for employment lawyers in this environment is to be able to give practical, commercial, strategic advice, and help clients to allocate legal risk in the face of such uncertainty. Of course, this is a skill honed by practitioners over time and with experience, which is our department’s greatest resource!
What advice would you give to younger lawyers looking to establish a career in labour and employment law?
Without underestimating the need for professionalism, as in any field of law, I would emphasise to anyone thinking about a career in employment law to consider whether they are a “people person” with an interest in learning and understanding labour relations, culture and HR. As a human-focused, less black-and-white area of law, I believe that such individuals are likely to enjoy and thrive in this environment.