52-hour week grace period ends

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52-hour week grace period ends

The grace period for the 52-hour workweek ended Monday.

According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor on Monday, large companies with more than 300 employees will now have to strictly comply with the shorter workweek.

The government will accept complaints against businesses that violate the regulations and order them to make changes.

An owner of a business who fails to follow the new regulations will face a prison sentence of less than two years or a fine of 20 million won ($17,610) or less. The ministry plans to start investigating companies that have been subject of complaints this month.

It also plans to conduct a general audit on all 3,000 businesses with more than 300 employees between May 1 through June 15.

By August, it will intensively investigate 600 companies known for long working hours.

The shorter workweek went into effect last July.

Starting next year, it will apply to businesses with between 50 and 299 employees. From July 1, 2021, it will apply to those with fewer than 50 employees.

The government gave a six-month grace period to help businesses adjust.

By the end of last year, the government decided to extend the grace period until the end of March because organized labor and the business community were at odds over so-called flexible working hours, a method for employees to adjust their working hours so that they don’t violate the 52-hour workweek.

Under the current system that limits the flexible working hours adjustment to within three months, an employee can work 64 hours a week for six weeks and 40 hours a week for the remaining six weeks.

When this period is expanded to six months, an employee can work for 40 hours in the first three-month period and 64 hours for the next three months, which brings the average to 52.

The government says it will be lenient with companies that either adopt flexible working hours or those that plan to.

While the Presidential Economic, Social and Labor Council in February reached an agreement to allow flexible working hours with an average period taken from three to six months, it has not been approved by the National Assembly.

Although the council submitted the flexible working hours plan to the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee last month, it has failed to make any progress.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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