Quarter of companies fail to meet 52-hour cap

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Quarter of companies fail to meet 52-hour cap

Five months have passed since the 52-hour workweek limit went into effect, but almost one in four local companies say they are failing to meet the new standard, according to a survey conducted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).

The organization, which represents local business, surveyed human resource departments of 317 mid and large-sized companies and released the results Tuesday. Among the companies, 24.4 percent said they have employees working more than 52 hours a week. In August, 16.4 percent had workers above the limit.

Companies with more than 300 workers were required to follow the workweek cap and reduce the maximum from 68 hours a week to 52 hours from July 1. Implementation was suspended for smaller enterprises. Companies that have between 50 and 300 employees will start in January 2021, and those that have between five and 50 will start in July 2021.

“For many companies with staff working past the limit, overtime work was a temporary situation for tasks like R&D,” said KCCI. “For some, the situation was inevitable as they had supply deadlines.”

Seven in 10 companies said they experienced hardship trying to adapt to the new 52-hour limit over the past five months.

Among them, 32.7 percent said there was an increased amount of administrative work to record and manage working hours, while 31 percent said there were setbacks in meeting R&D or supply deadlines. Fifteen percent cited financial expenses as they brought in more workers.

KCCI pointed out that, with large and mid-sized companies struggling to cope, the challenges are likely to be greater for small-sized companies with fewer resources.

The administration had expected the policy to result in job creation. Among companies surveyed, 38.2 percent said they had hired new employees to make up for the lack of workers due to the policy. Nineteen percent said they had to increase automation. Multiple answers were allowed.

In the same survey, nearly half the companies said a flexible working-hour system would be useful in meeting the new requirements. The system is allowed by domestic law, but respondents said changes need to be made for it to be of practical use. Only 23.4 percent of the companies said they had adopted the system.

Under a flexible working system, companies can adjust working hours as long as the weekly average stays under 40 hours over a three-month period. Among respondents who said a flexible working-hour system would help, more than half wanted the period for calculating the average extended to six months or one year.

“Companies have a peak season of two to three months when the work load increases - which is why they say a three-month standard is not practical,” said KCCI researcher Kim Hwang-chan.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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