Promised Changes to South Korean Labour Law

If he implements his campaign promises, the election last month of President Moon Jae-In will lead to some significant labour law changes in South Korea.

It is not unknown for promises made in election campaigns to go unfulfilled but employers should track developments and anticipate changes nevertheless.

Minimum Wage

President Moon has promised to raise the minimum wage to close to USD 9 per hour by 2020, an increase from today’s rate of 55%.

Reducing Working Hours

South Korea is famous for its long hours culture.  The new President has promised to address this by:

  • Strictly restricting working time, including overtime, to 52 hours per week.
  • Requiring employers to keep a record of time worked by each employee.
  • Allowing reduced hours for parents of children under 8 without any reduction of pay, for up to 24 months.
  • Allowing an extra days holiday if a national holiday falls on a weekend.

Use of Non-regular Workers

In South Korea, ‘non-regular’ workers are fixed term workers, part-time workers, agency workers and contractors.

President Moon has promised legislation that will:

  • Require equal pay for equal work.
  • Restrict the continuing use of fixed term and part time employment contracts.
  • Tax large companies who use excessive numbers of non-regular workers.
  • Increase protections for self-employed contractors who work on the employer’s premises.

Youth Employment Quota

For a limited period, employers with more than 300 employees would be required to hire ‘young’ employees (i.e. under 35 years of age) such that young employees make up between 3 and 5% of the workforce.

Blacklists for Voluntary Exits

Changes will be introduced to control the current widely used practice of employers drawing up blacklists of targeted employees for ‘voluntary separation’ or ‘early retirement’ programs.

Childcare Benefits

Improvement to childcare benefits have been promised including increased rights to leave and to wages while on leave.