Gov’t makes a proper break room mandatory

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Gov’t makes a proper break room mandatory

A janitor who works in a shopping mall in Gyeonggi works for four hours in the morning before taking a one-hour lunch break.

But his lunch break is not exactly a restful experience.

The only area available for him and his four colleagues to rest in is a tiny 4.96-square-meter (53.39-square-foot) room that’s connected to a small bathroom.

“We have to open the windows during summertime because of the foul smell coming from the bathroom,” he said. “We don’t even have a fan here as there is no electricity supply.”

On Monday, the Ministry of Employment and Labor took a big step toward improving the working conditions of laborers like the janitor. It distributed guidelines for installing and operating break rooms to employers and businesses through labor and franchise associations, local governments and construction companies.

“We provided detailed guidelines in light of the ongoing difficulties that laborers, especially workers in department stores, duty free stores, janitors and security guards, face with the lack of a proper break room,” said a ministry spokesman.

The current Labor Standards Act and Occupational Safety and Health Act stipulate that businesses must equip their buildings with break rooms that laborers can use to relieve physical and mental stress. But due to the absence of detailed guidelines, businesses have not been properly equipping break rooms for their laborers, leaving them to take breaks in random vacant rooms or washrooms.

According to the Ministry’s new guidelines, businesses must ensure that there is at least 1 square meter of resting area per laborer, with the minimum size of the break room measuring 6 square meters.

Furthermore, break rooms must be equipped with ventilation, heating and fans or air conditioners to maintain a sanitary environment.

The rest area must also be equipped with lighting, chairs, tables, drinking water, tissue and other amenities necessary for basic comfort.

For laborers working in outdoor sites like in construction, companies must provide a tented shelter to allow for cover from rain and heat.

These break rooms must be installed inside the business, although in exceptional cases companies can house their break room in a separate building, provided it is less than 100 meters (328 feet) away.

From September, ministry officials will conduct on-site visits to see whether businesses are abiding by the guidelines.

“Rest areas are the bare minimum that should be provided for laborers,” said Park Young-man, head of the ministry’s Industrial Accident Prevention and Compensation Bureau. “We will be checking regularly to make sure that laborers can enjoy the rights they already have.”

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