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Greater Reforms for Promoting Work-Life Balance  

by Sang Hoon Lee, William Kim

Published: November, 2019

Submission: November, 2019

 



 On 1 October 2019 significant changes to the Gender Equality Employment and Work-Life Balance Support Act came into force, including to employees' rights to paternity leave and reduced working hours for child and family care. These changes are also expected to:

  • have material implications for employers with regard to general compliance obligations; and
  • require employers to review their practices in engaging employees and other workforce flexibility measures to adapt to the legislative changes.


This article summarises the notable changes.


Expansion of paternity leave


Unamended act
The previous version of the act required employers to provide three to five days of paternity leave, but only the first three days were paid. In addition, employees had to:


  • request paternity leave within 30 days of their child's birth; and
  • use their paternity leave in a single segment.

Amended act


The amended act requires employers to provide at least 10 days of paid paternity leave. Further, employees must request paternity leave within 90 days of their child's birth and they may use their paternity leave in two segments. These amendments do not apply to employees:


  • whose paternity leave began before 1 October 2019; and
  • whose right to request paternity leave has expired (ie, employees whose child was born before 1 September 2019).


Qualifying employers may be eligible for government subsidies to provide for paternity leave.


These amendments became effective on 1 October 2019.


Expansion of childcare working hour reduction


Unamended act
Before the amended act came into force, in certain circumstances, employees were entitled to childcare leave or a reduction in their working hours in lieu of leave for up to one year combined. If an employee chose a reduction in working hours instead of leave, their working hours would be reduced by 15 to 30 hours per week.


Amended act
The act's amendments mean that employees can take up to one year of childcare leave and up to one (additional) year of reduced working hours for childcare. If an employee chooses a reduction in their working hours instead of leave during that year, this reduction will be treated separately and added to the one year working hour reduction entitlement under the amended act. In addition, if an employee chooses a reduction in working hours instead of leave, their working hours can be reduced by 15 to 35 hours per week.


Under the amended act, qualifying employees can take up to one year of childcare leave and up to one (additional) year of reduced working hours for childcare, providing a total of two years' childcare entitlement for working parents. Although the one year of childcare leave can be substituted with a reduction in working hours (for up to two years of reduced working hours), the inverse is not true.


These amendments became effective on 1 October 2019.


Expansion of family care leave to include family care days off


Unamended act
Before the expansion of family care leave, employees with more than one year of service could use up to 90 days of unpaid family care leave per year. Employees could also:


  • request for unpaid family care leave on the grounds of a family member's illness or accident; and
  • use their family care leave over multiple segments, as long as each segment was at least 30 days.


Amended act

Under the amended act, employees will be able to use 10 days (family care days off) of the total 90 days of family care leave as single days off, as opposed to the minimum 30 day segments. In addition, childcare is now a recognised ground for using the family care days off.


As the amended act permits up to 10 days for use as single days off, employees can benefit from family care leave for emergencies such as:


  • a sick child;
  • urgent parent-teacher conferences; or
  • other situations where 30 days is not required.

These amendments are set to come into force on 1 January 2020.


New right to request reduction in working hours


Unamended act
The right to request a reduction in working hours did not exist before the act's amendments.


Amended act
Amendments to the act will enable employees to request a reduction in their working hours on grounds such as family care, health, retirement preparation and academic endeavours. The employer must grant the request to reduce working hours unless it is otherwise permitted to refuse under the law. During this time, employees' working hours may be reduced by 15 to 30 hours per week.


Finally, the working hour reduction period can be up to three years (one year if the grounds for the request is to pursue academic endeavours). During this period, the employer cannot unfairly change the employee's employment terms, except for a proportionate reduction in benefits that are associated with working hours (eg, salary).


These amendments are set to come into force on the following dates:


  • 1 January 2020 for companies with 300 or more employees;
  • 1 January 2021 for companies with 30 to 299 employees; or
  • 1 January 2022 for companies with one to 29 employees.

Potential impact on your business


Employers are strongly advised to review their existing practices and policies to ensure compliance with the act's latest amendments. Workplace disruptions are expected due to the increased benefits – especially with regard to securing adequate substitute personnel while primary employees are on leave or working reduced hours. Therefore, companies must review their employee engagement practices to ensure proper temporary engagements and introduce workplace flexibility to ensure continued operations.


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 ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Lee & Ko website can be accessed at www.lawleeko.com.


 


 

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