Sick leave pilot project to be tried
In the wake of the pandemic, Korea will implement a paid sick leave system that allows workers to take leave for diseases such as Covid-19 and receive 60 percent of the minimum wage.
Starting July 4, a pilot project for sick benefits will go into effect in six regions across the country on a one-year trial, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said in a Covid-19 response meeting Wednesday.
“After experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become important to create social conditions encouraging people to take sick leave,” Lee said.
Citing a 2021 survey conducted by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs that showed only 46 percent of workers took paid sick leave, Lee said the government decided to implement a pilot project to help workers take time off to recover.
A sickness benefits scheme is a system that provides income to workers who come down with a qualifying disease or sustain an injury unrelated to work.
The selected regions include Jongno District in central Seoul, Bucheon in Gyeonggi, Cheonan in South Chungcheong, Suncheon in South Jeolla, Pohang in North Gyeongsang and Changwon in South Gyeongsang.
Those eligible in these areas will be paid 60 percent of this year’s minimum wage as benefits — 43,960 won ($34) per day — during the period of their sick leave.
To compare the effectiveness of the policy, the government plans to divide the six regions into a total of three groups and apply different models with different coverage and period criteria.
The cities of Bucheon and Pohang, for instance, will provide benefits regardless of whether applicants have been hospitalized or not, while Suncheon and Changwon will only pay benefits for the days in hospital.
The waiting period — the period between the day of leave and the day when the pay is made — is set between three to 14 days, and the maximum period for benefits is between 90 and 120 days.
“There is a risk of promoting a moral hazard if sick benefits are given immediately,” explained Son Young-rae, senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, adding, “Countries abroad also operate a system in which the sick benefits are paid after a certain amount of waiting time.”
The government plans to complete a system model for Korea through three stages of pilot projects over a total of three years.
Specific requirements and application methods for the sick benefits scheme will be announced separately this month.
Korea’s daily Covid-19 cases were 9,435 on Wednesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) data.
The daily tally was down by 343 from the previous day, staying below 10,000 for six days in a row.
Imported cases, however, more than doubled in a day from 41 to 104. Of them, 38 were found in arrivals coming from other Asian countries (excluding China), 34 from Europe, 29 from America, two from Oceania and one from Africa.
Korea allowed all travelers — including the unvaccinated — to be exempted from quarantine and expanded the number of international flights from June 8.
Despite Wednesday’s surge in imported infections, health authorities said they will maintain the eased entry measures, concluding that the possibility of local virus transmissions due to the increase in imported cases is low.
“Considering the level of immunity of Koreans, the possibility of the spread of Covid-19 induced from overseas cases will be at least lowered," Son said.
The Central Disease Control Headquarters on Tuesday released results of a nationwide survey conducted on 1,612 participants, showing the overall antibody positivity rate reached 94.9 percent.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]