Employers in South Korea are required to undertake certain actions in relation to its workforce of fixed-term workers in light of recent guidelines. Is your company compliant?

Job Security for Fixed-term Workers

To improve the protection provided by legislation to non-regular workers (including fixed-term workers), the Ministry of Employment and Labour (MOEL) has recently enacted guidelines titled "Guidelines for Job Security for Fixed-term Workers" (Guidelines). These Guidelines came into force on 8 April 2016.

The key feature of these Guidelines is that fixed-term workers in 'regular or continuous work' are now expected to be converted to a 'regular' status, i.e. to permanent employees. Fixed-term workers in 'regular or continuous work' are those who have worked with an employer for the entire duration of the year for the previous two years, and whom the employer expects to continue to work in the future. The Guidelines also contain provisions prohibiting employers from discriminating between workers who have been converted to a regular status and permanent employees, as well as provisions requiring that all workers at the workplace should be treated on par with each other.

In order to give teeth to the Guidelines, the MOEL has indicated that it will monitor their implementation. It has also announced that, in 2016, it will inspect work places to ensure that there is no discrimination against non-regular workers.

Compliance

Employers should:

  1. Identify fixed-term workers in 'regular or continuous work' and convert them to a regular status;
  2. If fixed-term workers are to be converted, ensure that the new working conditions reflect the worker's past employment history;
  3. If fixed-term workers are to be engaged, ensure that:
    1. a reasonable contract period is entered into (i.e. one that is not unreasonably short); and
    2. the worker is provided an explanation about the reasons behind the selection of the period; and
  4. Ensure that welfare arrangements in the workplace apply uniformly to all workers.