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Government Decides to Grant SMEs 1-year Grace Period in Introducing 52-Hour Work System
Extended Work Allowed in Special Cases
Government Decides to Grant SMEs 1-year Grace Period in Introducing 52-Hour Work System
  • By Jung Suk-yee
  • December 12, 2019, 10:17
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Lee Jae-gap, minister of employment and labor

The Korean government will grant a one-year grace period to companies with 50 to 299 employees in implementing the 52-hour workweek system. The shortened workweek system will go into force for this group of companies in January of next year.

The government has also decided to allow special extended work in emergencies, such as when a sudden failure or malfunction of facilities or equipment occurs, when work volume increases suddenly and when there will be a serious setback or damage to business unless work should be completed in a short time.


The government announced these supplementary measures for companies with 50 to 299 employees on Dec. 11. These measures were announced as it became unclear whether the bill on the extension of the unit period of the flexible work hour system will be passed during the ongoing parliamentary session.

Unless a complaint is filed against a workplace during the grace period, it will not be subject to a crackdown over long-time work. However, even if a violation of regulations on working time is found due to workers’ complaints, a sufficient correction period (six months) will be granted.

Requirements for special overtime work will include business reasons such as a temporary spike in work volume. Special overtime work is currently allowed only under special circumstances such as natural or social disasters. The government has decided to allow special overtime work for ordinary accidents or a sudden spike in orders as well.

“In consideration of the conditions of companies hiring fewer than 300 employees, it is necessary to improve the shortened workweek system,” said Lee Jae-gap, minister of employment and labor. He said the relevant law needs to be revised to put the 52-hour workweek system in place.

“But a delay in legislation has forced us to announce the complementary measures. To allow labor and management to operate the system autonomously without the government’s approval, I would like to ask the National Assembly to promptly pass the bill as quickly as possible," Lee said.