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Key Changes to Korean Labor Standards Act in 2019

February 2019 - Employment . Legal Developments by Lee & Ko .

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Key Changes to Korean Labor Standards Act in 2019

In 2018, Korea experienced major reforms to the employment laws including, but not limited to, the Labor Standards Act. For example, many employers scrambled – many are still struggling – to adjust their work hour structures to comply with the new 52-hour work hour limit. In 2019, legislative reforms and amendments proposed in 2018 have taken effect. For your information, we have highlighted two major changes in the employment law landscape for 2019.

1. Duty to Prevent Workplace Harassment

Employers will be required to prevent workplace harassment (effective July 1, 2019) where “workplace harassment” is defined as acts inflicting physical/mental distress to or creating a hostile work environment for co-workers unreasonably through use (or abuse) or one’s position/relationship in the workplace.

Before the Amendment

After the Amendment

No provision
on the duty to
prevent workplace


Duty to Investigate. Employers are required to investigate promptly upon learning of or receiving a complaint on workplace harassment.


Duty to Take Protective Measures. During the investigation, employers must take appropriate protective measures (e.g., work location change, mandatory paid leave) to protect victims (both alleged and actual) of workplace harassment.


Duty to Take Remedial Measures. Upon confirming the allegations of workplace harassment, employers are required to take remedial measures (e.g., work location change, job reassignment) upon request by the workplace harassing victim.


Duty to Take Disciplinary Measures. Upon confirming the allegations of workplace harassment, employers are required to take necessary disciplinary measures against the alleged perpetrator(s). Furthermore, employers are required to hear the victim’s opinion before undertaking any disciplinary measure.


The prohibition against Secondary Harm. Employers may not inflict any unfair disadvantages against the victim or complainant of workplace harassment in connection with the incident.

Effective: July 16, 2019

Notably, the amended Labor Standards Act mandates employers to develop and incorporate their anti-bullying policy terms into their rules of employment (“ROE”) as well as the types of measures to be taken upon occurrence of workplace harassment. In the wake of the additional compliance requirement, employers are strongly advised to review and update their ROEs and file the amended ROEs with the Ministry of Employment and Labor by no later than July 16, 2019, when the new law takes effect. Please note that the amended standard applies to acts of workplace harassment that occurs after the effective date of the amendment.

2. Uniform Standard for Termination Notice Exemptions

The Labor Standards Act provides statutory exemptions from the termination notice requirement (i.e., thirty (30) days’ notice or payment in lieu thereof) under limited circumstances. Before the amendment, the statutory exemptions varied depending on the forms of employment and the duration of employment (see “Before Amendments” below). Under the amended Labor Standards Act, the law applies a uniform standard. Please note that the amended standard applies to employment contracts executed after January 15, 2019.

Before the Amendment

After the Amendment

The termination notice requirement shall not apply to the following employees:

Employers may be exempt from the termination notice requirement where:


Daily-hire employees with less than three (3) months of service time


The employee’s continuous service time is less than three (3) months;


Fixed-term employees with less than two (2) months of employment term




Monthly wage employees with less than six (6) months of service time (Note: Declared unconstitutional in December 2015)




Employees hired for seasonal work with employment term of less than six (6) months




Employees on a probationary period.




Effective: January 15, 2019

If you have any questions on the amendments identified above, including how they may impact your business, please do not hesitate to contact Lee & Ko.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact below:

Sang Hoon LEE (sanghoon.lee

Chang Soo JIN (

Hyunseok SONG (

William KIM (

For more information, please visit our website: here.

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