In a recent change, the benefit of a reduction in working hours without any reduction of pay in South Korea has now been made available to all pregnant employees. Is your company compliant?

Obligation to provide reduced working hours

Previously, only employers with 300 employees or more were obliged to provide pregnant employees with the benefit of reduced working hours without a reduction in pay. From 25 March 2016, this benefit is no longer linked to the number of employees on the payroll of an employer, meaning that all employers are obliged to provide reduced hours to pregnant employees.

Under the new regime, the nature of the benefits, the manner in which they need to be applied for and the sanctions against their breach continue to be the same. This means that pregnant women in certain sensitive stages of pregnancy, i.e. those in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or those beyond the 36th week of pregnancy, are still able reduce their working hours by two hours each day, without any reduction in pay. They are free to either report to work two hours after the usual reporting time, or leave two hours before the usual close of business or add these two hours to their daily break. The only restriction to this is that employees whose normal day of work is less than 8 hours may not request to work fewer than 6 hours per day.

Employers who do not provide eligible pregnant workers with the reduced working hours can be fined up to KRW 5 million (approximately USD 4,300). Employers who reduce the salaries of such employees when they work fewer hours risk being subject to criminal penalties.

Compliance

Employers should:

  1. Ensure that the requisite  benefits are made  available to pregnant employees  in the first  12  weeks  of pregnancy or beyond the 36th week of pregnancy; and
  2. Collect the following documents and information from eligible employees who wish to reduce their working hours:
    1. a medical certificate indicating the stage of pregnancy;
    2. the time they want to report to or leave work; and
    3. the period for which they wish to avail reduced working hours.