South Korea rejects further extension to delay 52-hour work week

Companies employing between five and 49 workers will have to comply with the 52-hour work week by next month.
By: | June 18, 2021

South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labour has rejected small companies’ request for a further grace period to implement the 52-hour work week.

The ministry said it is going ahead with the new ruling as a large percentage of small businesses are ready for it. In April, it surveyed 1,300 small businesses and found that 93% of respondents were ready to implement the system come July 1, while 82% said they had already begun doing so.

Though the percentage of companies in the manufacturing sector ready for the new system was relatively lower than other sectors, it still stood at 82.4%.

The ministry’s chief of labour policy Kweon Gi-seob said, “There are growing concerns about deaths from overwork, and increasing public demands regarding the need for a right to healthcare. There is no doubt that our society must move in the direction of (reducing) long working hours.”

Large companies employing 300 or more workers adopted the 52-hour work week in July 2018, while those with 50 to 299 employees did so in January last year.

Businesses employing five to 49 workers will be required to comply with the system on July 1 or face penalties for violations.

READ: South Korea’s government urged to delay implementing longer work week

To give businesses more leeway to comply with the new ruling, employers are allowed to ensure an average of 52 hours per work week spread over six months instead of three, giving them more flexibility for them to ask employees to clock more overtime hours during weeks with heavier workloads, according to Yonhap News Agency.