More generous maternity leaves

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More generous maternity leaves


President Moon Jae-in, center, talks with members of the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy over tea in the Blue House on Tuesday before they convene a meeting to discuss policy. Labor Ministry announced Tuesday that the government will extend maternity leave up to one year during pregnancy. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

The government will expand maternity leave during pregnancy and allow for working hour reductions, the Labor Ministry announced Tuesday.

The move is aimed at correcting current parental leave rules that require would-be mothers to use most of their maternity leave after delivery.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor said that it will change the law to allow women workers to request up to one year of maternity leave and use more of it during pregnancy. The amended rule will go into effect starting in the second half of next year.

Pregnant employees can also request two-hour work time reductions anytime during pregnancy. Presently, such reductions can only be granted twelve weeks before delivery or 36 weeks after.

The ministry also introduced longer paternity leaves. The period of paid paternity leave will be expanded to 10 days in 2022 from the current three days.

The government will also require companies to increase salaries paid during maternity leave from 40 percent of ordinary wages to 50 percent.

Contract-based workers could enjoy more leave, too.

If a contract worker quits during maternity leave, the employer has to provide the maternity leave salary for the entire period.

The ministry will also guarantee parental leaves for any employee that has worked six months at a company from the current one year.

The ministry reiterated that such reforms are meant to reduce the number of women who quit their jobs when they have children.

President Moon Jae-in pledged women-friendly working conditions.

The ministry will require companies with over 300 female employees to build in-house kindergartens for the workers’ children.

Some companies that run kindergartens have been criticized for not offering schooling for all workers’ children because the facilities were too small.

The companies resorted to random selection or chose a select number of employees based on the distance between their home and the office.

The government will also launch a pilot project to establish three public kindergartens in neighborhoods with small, low-income merchants.

Despite progress in recent years, Korea has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries at 58.4 percent as of 2016, far below the OECD average of 66.8 percent.

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