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Article | Global News Briefs

South Korea: New enhancements to parental and family leaves

Future of Work|Health and Benefits|Total Rewards

By James Jang | November 18, 2019

Provisions extend paternity leave and flexibility of time off for child and family care, which could impact workforce planning for multinationals.

Employer action code: Monitor

According to the most recent government data, South Korea’s fertility rate (the average number of babies expected to be born to women during their lifetime) dropped from 1.05 to 0.98 in 2018, well below the average among OECD states of 1.70 and one of the lowest rates in the world. The low fertility rate has long been an issue that successive governments have tried to address with a variety of measures. The newest are amendments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, which increased the duration of paternity leave and enhanced flexibility for time off for childcare and family care.

Key details

The paternity and childcare leave provisions, effective October 1, 2019, include:

  • 10 days of employer-paid paternity leave for the birth of a child, to be taken within 90 days of birth: The previous standard was five days’ leave, two of which were unpaid (at the employer's discretion), to be taken within 30 days of birth. Note: There are no social security provisions for paternity or adoption leave, nor is there any appreciable practice of providing adoption leave. Government subsidies (yet to be determined) will be made available for small and midsize companies.
  • Government-subsidized reduced working hours for up to 12 months for child care, in addition to the current entitlement of 12 months of government-subsidized child care leave/work reduction combined: As a result, employees will be able to reduce working time for up to two years (or combine leave with reduced work time, as before). Daily work hours may be reduced by one to five hours (previously two to five hours).

The family care leave provisions, effective January 1, 2020, for all employers include:

  • Up to 10 days of unpaid family care leave (from 90-day entitlement), in single-day increments. Currently, leave can be taken only in 30-day increments on up to three separate occasions annually for the care of parents, parents-in-law, a spouse and children, subject to certain restrictions.
  • Eligibility will be expanded to include care for grandparents/grandchildren and for urgent child-rearing matters.

The provisions for reduced hours for family leave will apply to employers with 300 or more workers from January 1, 2020. It will apply to companies with 30 or more workers in 2021 and to smaller firms in 2022. Eligibility includes care of parents, parents-in-law, a spouse and children, grandparents/grandchildren and for educational purposes, subject to certain restrictions.

Employer implications

Among multinationals surveyed by Willis Towers Watson, companies rarely provide paid paternity leave in excess of statutory requirements. With the increased flexibility of the use of childcare/family leave, employers should consider the impact on their workforce planning. According to the government, use of parental leave has increased by 20% since 2017 (albeit from a low base) indicating an increased level of employee interest.


James Jang

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