Global Compliance Desk – South Korea

South Korea Amendments to Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act (EEA) and Labor Standards Act

On 2 August 2019, the Korean National Assembly passed amendments to the Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act (EEA) providing more flexible working schedules, changes to the public holiday entitlement, increase in the minimum wage, and modifications in the entitlement of Family Leave for Private Employee. These changes took effect from January 1, 2021. Below is a brief description of each of the above-mentioned amendment – 

Weekly Working Hours

Currently, employees working in workplaces with at least 50 to 300 or more employees are entitled to 52 working hours per week..

Amendment – Effective July 1, 2021, employers with at least 5 and fewer than 50 employees shall reduce the weekly working hours from 68 to 52. The working hours shall consist of regular working hours capped at 40 hours per week and a maximum of 12 hours of overtime each week. 

Public Holidays 

In South Korea, government mandates only 1 paid holiday i.e. Labor Day (May 1). Through the legislative amendment in 2018, the holidays which were only provided to public/ government officials under the Regulations on Holidays of Government Offices were made mandatory to be given to private employees also. This amendment was scheduled to be rolled out in phases depending upon the size of the workplaces.

Amendment – Effective January 1, 2021, this regulatory change has become applicable to all employers with at least 30 and fewer than 299 employees. Going further, effective January 1, 2022, this will be made applicable to all employers with 5-29 employees too. Employers with fewer than 5 employees are exempted. Currently, this is applicable for all employers with more than 300 employees.

Reduction in Working Hours

Employees working in workplaces with 300 and more employees were entitled to apply for a reduction in working hours for the following purposes:

  • To take care of a family member;
  • For employee’s injury or illness
  • Education
  • To prepare for retirement after the age of 55.

    The working hour’s reduction can be between 15 to 30 working hours. The maximum period for the reduced working hour schedule is one year and based on reasonable grounds excluding study purpose, the period may be extended by up to 2 years.

    Amendment – Effective January 1, 2021, all employers having employees ranging from 20 to 299 shall allow the employees to apply for such a reduction in working hours. For employers with employees, fewer than 30 shall become applicable to apply for a reduction in working hours from January 1, 2022.

    Family Care Leave

    Earlier employees were entitled to 90 days of family care leave in South Korea, of which they must use 30 days at least at one go. Post amendment effective December 8, 2020 employees were permitted to use up to 10 days each year on a single basis rather than 30 days. Currently, the family care leave is only applicable to employees working in workplaces with 300 or more employees. 

    Amendment – Effective January 1, 2021, employers with 30 to 300 or more employees are required to provide family care leave to their employees.

    Minimum Wage

    Effective January 1, 2021, the minimum wage in South Korea is KRW 8,720.

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