On 2 August 2019, the Korean government passed amendments expanding employer-paid paternity leave, partially government-funded childcare leave, and unpaid family care leave.
While most of the amended Act’s provisions entered into effect on 1 October 2019, other provisions will be phased in from 1 January 2020, to 1 January 2022.
The new Act amends the Gender Equality Employment Act and the Work-Life Balance Support Act. The new Act aims to promote work-life balance and bolster the country’s low birth rate.
Prior to 1 October 2019, employers were required to provide new fathers with three to five days of paternity leave, but only the first three days were paid. In addition, male employees were required to use their leave in a single block within 30 days of a child’s birth.
New fathers are now entitled to 10 days of employer-paid paternity leave. Paternity leave may now be taken in multiple blocks within 90 days of a child’s birth. The expanded leave entitlement does not apply to the following cases:
- When the child was born before 1 September 2019.
- When the paternity leave started before 1 October 2019.
Parental childcare leave and reduced working hours for childcare
Prior to 1 October 2019, working parents with a child under age eight or in the second grade of elementary school or below were only entitled to one year of combined childcare leave and reduced working hours for childcare, to be used however the employee decided – whether all at once or divided between two time periods.
Working parents with a child under age eight or in the second grade of elementary school or below are now entitled to:
- One year of partially government-funded leave for childcare.
- An additional year of reduced working hours for childcare.
The employee has the option to use the childcare leave period all at once, or to use it entirely or partially as a period of reduced hours for childcare. This means that an employee may choose to use reduced working hours for childcare for two full years.
Family care leave
Currently, employees are entitled to 90 days of unpaid family leave per year. Family care leave should be used 30 contiguous days at a time due to a family member’s illness or accident. An employee may use family leave to look after parents, parents-in-law, spouses and children.
In 2020, the amended Act will expand the scope of family care leave as follows:
- Family leave may be used to look after a grandparent or grandchild in addition to parents, parents-in-law, spouses and children.
- Family leave may be used for childcare, including school events.
In addition, employees will be able to use family care leave one day at a time, up to 10 days per year. The remaining days must still be used 30 contiguous days at a time.
Reduced working hours
Currently, reduced working hours arrangements may be taken by female employees in the early and late stages of pregnancy, as well as by both working parents for childcare purposes.
The amended Act introduces a new right to request a reduction in working hours for the following reasons:
- To care for a family member within the expanded scope of the family care leave.
- To prepare for retirement after age 55.
- For academic study.
- When an employee is sick or injured.
The amendments on family care leave expansion and reduced working hours rights will enter into effect as follows:
- 1 January 2020 for employers with at least 300 employees.
- 1 January 2021 for employers with 39 to 299 employees.
- 1 January 2022 for employers fewer than 30 employees.
Employers should ensure compliance with the new amendments within the timeline. In addition, employers may want to update their employment rules and policies in accordance with the new changes.