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Asia employment law bulletin 2021

South-Korea

Developments in the light of COVID-19

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the way in which people traditionally work in Korea will be a lasting one. The biggest change seen has been the adaptation by employers to the “new normal” of employees working from home and the surge in the use of video teleconferencing to replace face-to-face meetings. In response to these trends, the Ministry of Employment and Labour has issued detailed guidelines to give guidance to employers on how they should manage employees who work from home.

With more employees working outside of the office, more companies have been adopting the flexible working hour systems available under Korean law, including the “deemed working hour system” which is applicable to employees whose working hours are difficult to track.

However, for the companies that have not adopted such flexible working hour systems while implementing working from home, questions have arisen about how best employers should track and to check the exact working hours worked by employees. Recently, the Ministry of Employment and Labour found that working from home made it difficult for employers to check their employees’ working hours and this has caused employees to work more hours. In light of this development, the Ministry is considering stepping up on its labour inspection efforts.

In addition, Korea has seen a large rise in the use of “platform-based workers,” which refers to workers that use an on-line platform to provide their services, including delivery, transportation and household services.

In connection with this rise in the number of platform-based workers, on December 21, 2020, the Ministry of Employment and Labour announced plans to provide various measures that aim to protect these platform-based workers to grant them with greater protection. A bill on the protection of platform-based workers will be introduced in the first quarter of 2021.

Matthew Jones, Kim & Chang

Beom-Kon Cho, Kim & Chang