Gov't Overhauls 52-hour Workweek System to Provide More Flexibility | Be Korea-savvy

Gov’t Overhauls 52-hour Workweek System to Provide More Flexibility

Seoul Station is busy with travelers in the morning on Nov. 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

Seoul Station is busy with travelers in the morning on Nov. 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, March 6 (Korea Bizwire) The government announced a set of measures on Monday to reform the controversial 52-hour workweek system by giving more flexibility and choice in work hours.

Under the system introduced in 2018, employers must limit overtime work to 12 hours per week to ensure the total number of hours worked remains at 52.

The revision, however, will allow companies to manage overtime not only weekly but on a monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly basis so that employers can choose more hours during weeks with heavy workloads and fewer hours during weeks with less work.

To prevent consecutive overtime working days, however, the limit of overtime hours will be shortened when counting on a quarterly, half-yearly or yearly basis.

In accordance, 140 hours per quarter, 250 hours per half-year and 440 hours per year will be allowed.

The revision also must guarantee a consecutive rest period of 11 hours between each working day.

This will enable companies to increase the maximum weekly work hours to 69 while still keeping the average work hours within the 52-hour limit.

When the consecutive rest period is not guaranteed due to circumstances, the maximum weekly work hours is set at 64 hours, the government said.

The government will also adopt a new sabbatical month system in which a worker can save overtime work hours as paid leave days, so that they can be used consecutively with annual paid leave days.

Labor Minister Lee Jeong-sik talks to reporters on March 6, 2023. (Yonhap)

Labor Minister Lee Jeong-sik talks to reporters on March 6, 2023. (Yonhap)

The decision for such flexibility should be adopted on an agreement between the labor and the management of each company.

“(The plan) will benefit workers with various working hour systems, such as a four-day workweek and a sabbatical month, while help companies in managing their workforce,” Labor Minister Lee Jeong-sik told a press briefing.

The change comes at the request of businesses that have complained of difficulties in meeting deadlines due to the 52-hour workweek.

The public will have 40 days to submit their opinions about the revisions before they are sent to the National Assembly for approval in June-July.

The revision, however, is strongly opposed by the main opposition Democratic Party and the minor opposition Justice Party, which hold a majority.

The Korea Enterprise Federation, the country’s major business lobbying group, welcomed the move, saying it is a major step toward labor reform that will add flexibility in responding to increased workloads.

The country’s two major labor unions, however, said the plan does not guarantee break times for workers and will eventually lead to longer working hours.

“The revision makes it legal to work from 9 a.m. to midnight,” the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions said in a release, adding the plan will only benefit the management.


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