South Korea recently overhauled its employment laws. This update provides some of the most significant changes that may have an impact on business operations.

Greater annual paid leave entitlement

Before amendments

After amendments

During the first year of service, employees were entitled to one day of paid annual leave per completed month of service. Starting from the second year of service, employees were entitled to at least 15 days of paid annual leave, minus any paid annual leave accrued and used during the first year of service.

Under the amended Labour Standards Act, employers may no longer deduct paid annual leave accrued and used during the first year of service from employees' second-year entitlement.

Effective date: 29 May 2018

Fertility treatment leave

Before amendments

After amendments

No leave was provided for employees seeking to undergo fertility treatments.

If an employee requests leave to undergo artificial insemination therapy, in-vitro fertilisation or other such pregnancy-related treatments, the employer must provide up to three days' leave per year. The first day must be paid. However, if the requested days would cause significant disruptions to the business, the employer may discuss alternative days with the employee.

Effective date: 29 May 2018

Expanded eligibility for childcare leave

Eligible employees are entitled to childcare leave of up to one year. In lieu thereof, employees may request a reduction in working hours in accordance with the law. Childcare leave is unpaid.

Before amendments

After amendments

To be eligible for childcare leave or a work hour reduction, employees had to:

  • have been employed for at least one year; and

  • have a child (including an adopted child) who was eight years old or younger (or in the second grade of elementary school or lower).

To be eligible for childcare leave or a work hour reduction, employees must have been employed for at least six months.

The age requirement for an eligible child remains the same.

Effective date: 29 May 2018

Greater protection for workplace sexual harassment victims

Before amendments

After amendments

On becoming aware of an incident of workplace sexual harassment, employers were obliged to take appropriate measures against the wrongdoer (including disciplinary actions) and could not disadvantage (terminate) a victim or individual alleging sexual harassment because of the complaint.

In addition to the previous obligations, the amendments impose greater and more specific obligations on employers, including as follows:

  • Employers must investigate reported incidents of workplace sexual harassment without delay, while ensuring confidentiality and that the victims or alleged victims suffer no further sexual humiliation due to the investigation process.

  • Employers must take all necessary measures (eg, relocation, reassignment and paid leave) to protect the victim during the investigation process.

  • Employers must take the measure that is requested by the victim (eg, relocation, reassignment or paid leave) on confirmation that workplace sexual harassment has occurred.

  • Additional prohibited disadvantageous acts by employers are listed, including termination, disciplinary action, negative evaluations, unjust HR orders and exclusion.

Effective date: 29 May 2018

Mandatory disability awareness training

Before amendments

After amendments

No special training requirement existed.

To enhance the effectiveness of disability awareness training at the workplace, the Disability Employment Act has been amended to provide specific guidelines on the method, frequency and content of mandatory training. Under the amended law, all employers must provide mandatory disability awareness training at least once a year for at least one hour.

Effective date: 29 May 2018

Expanded scope of anti-discrimination statutes

Before amendments

After amendments

The Equal Employment Act's anti-discrimination statutes (Articles 8 to 11) prohibit various forms of gender-based discrimination in employment (eg, wages, non-wage financial support, promotion, job assignment, retirement and termination). These rules were applied to businesses with five or more employees.

The anti-discrimination statutes under the Equal Employment Act will be enforced equally for all businesses, including those with fewer than five employees.

Effective date: 1 January 2019

For further information on this topic please contact Sang Hoon Lee or William Woojong Kim at Lee & Ko by telephone (+82 2 772 4000) or email (sanghoon.lee@leeko.com or william.kim@leeko.com). The Lee & Ko website can be accessed at www.lawleeko.com.

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