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Labor Law Amendments Regarding Individual Labor Relations to Watch for in 2021


The following is a summary of the amendments to minimum wage, the Labor Standards Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act effective between December 2020 and April 2021.

1.   2021 Minimum Wage

  • The minimum wage in 2021 is KRW 8,720, which is an increase of around 1.5% compared to the 2020 minimum wage of KRW 8,590.  Among regular bonuses and cash welfare benefits, bonuses exceeding 15% of and welfare benefits exceeding 3% of the monthly calculated sum (KRW 1,822,480 based on 209 hours per month) of the 2021 minimum hourly wage (KRW 8,720) will be included in calculation of the minimum wage (this is part of the phased expansion of application of such payments to the minimum wage calculation from 2019 to 2024).

2.   Amendments to the Labor Standards Act (the “LSA”) 

  • Starting from July 1, 2021, the 52-hour workweek system will be implemented with respect to private companies with more than five employees and less than 50 employees.

  • An amendment to the LSA now allows companies to stipulate and deliver working conditions using electronic documents (Article 17 (2) and Article 67 (3), amended and enforced as of January 5, 2021). 

  • A new proviso has been added to allow employers to omit preparing a list of employees for daily workers employed for less than 30 days (a proviso to Article 41 (1), amended and enforced as of January 5, 2021).

  • New provisions have been added to allow companies to introduce a flexible working hour system with a unit period exceeding three months and less than six months (Article 51-2 and Article 116 (1) 3, newly established and amended as of January 5, 2021 and to be enforced in phases from April 6, 2021). 

  • The law has also been changed to extend an adjustment period for a selective working hour system, which was limited to one month, “up to a maximum of three months.”  However, this only applies to employees engaged in research of new products or new technologies, and if an adjustment period exceeding one month is set, an employer is obligated to provide a rest period for 11 consecutive hours between working days, and to pay an additional allowance for hours exceeding 40 hours per week based on a monthly average (Article 52, amended as of January 5, 2021 and to be enforced in phases from April 6, 2021). 

  • The LSA was also amended to add a provision requiring employers to take appropriate measures, such as implementing a medical check-up or granting a rest period, for an employee who has worked overtime under special circumstances and per the employee’s consent and an approval by the Minister of Employment and Labor in order to protect the employee’s health and well-being (Article 53 (7), amended as of January 5, 2021 and to be enforced as of April 6, 2021).  

  • Starting from January 1, 2021, the holidays of government offices under the Regulations on Holidays of Government Offices and substitute holidays therefor will be applicable as paid holidays for private companies regularly employing more than 30 employees and less than 300 employees.   Further, to substitute the prescribed holidays with other working days, employers are required to reach a written agreement with the employee representative (Article 55 (2)).

3.   Amendments to the Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act 

  • Starting from January 1, 2021, for private companies regularly employing 30 to 299 employees, if an employee applies for a reduction of working hours for the following reasons, the employer must grant it: to take care of his/her family or his/her own health, an employee who is 55 years or older to prepare for his/her retirement, and/or to allow an employee to pursue his/her studies.  The reduced working hours may be between 15 to 30 hours.  The maximum period for the reduced working hour schedule is one year, and based on reasonable grounds, the period may be extended by up to two years (Article 22-2). 

  • Starting from December 8, 2020, a leave of absence for childcare may be used over several occasions, up to three times (Article 19-4 (1)).


[Related Newsletter] Labor Law Amendments Regarding Collective Labor Relations and Other Employment-Related Issues to Watch for in 2021