More flexibility for employees in South Korea to choose when to work

Plans to revise the current 52-hour workweek will afford employees more control over how they manage their working hours.
By: | March 7, 2023

Employees in South Korea may soon have the option to choose when they want to work longer hours and when they want to take more time for themselves.

Through a new flexible working hour system, the government is proposing that employees be allowed to work up to 69 hours weekly, up from the current limit of 52 hours. This is offset by the option of working fewer hours in other weeks, allowing employees more flexibility to manage the time they work on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.

Employees will also have the option to convert extended working hours to vacation time, which will be added to existing paid annual vacation time.

According to Labour Minister Lee Junk-sik, the proposed new system will mitigate the negative side effects of the current workweek system, which holds employers legally accountable for employees who work longer than 52 hours a week.

Currently, employers are unable to recognise working hours beyond 52 hours a week without being penalised, meaning employees who worked excess overtime may not be paid for it, said Lee.

To prevent excessive concentration of overtime work during a specific period, 11 consecutive hours of rest between shifts each day will be mandatory until the proposed system, or working hours would have to be kept below a four-week average of 64 hours a week.

READ: Longer shifts, more leisure: Firms in South Korea adopt new work system

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has broadly rejected the proposals, saying they will add even more work hours for employees, while the Korea Enterprise Federation, a business representative organisation, says the new system will add more flexibility to both employers and employees, reported The Korea Herald.

A revision bill is expected to be submitted to South Korea’s National Assembly in June or July this year.