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How to apply and implement the flexible working hours system


How to apply and implement the flexible working hours system

- Prepared and distributed the Compilation of Cases in R&Dand Q&As on the working hours systemto draw the interest and encourage active use of flexible working arrangements in the field



Cases of flexible working system in information technology (IT)software companies, R&D departments, etc.

Case A

     The weekly working hours of program developers in □□□ Co., Ltd., a company that develops real-time video streaming technology, have significantly increased due to the rise in contact-free services after the spread of COVID-19. Accordingly, a selective working hours system was introduced considering the nature of R&D work that has a lot of flexibility in working hours and set 11am to 4pm as mandatory working hours, 7am to 11am as time for coming to office, and 4pm to 8pm as time for leaving office to efficiently adjust working hours of each worker. Meanwhile, measures such as hiring more workers were implemented (recruiting 2 employees)* to comply with the 52-hour workweek, so there were no employees working more than 52 hours per week.

* One person (March, 2021) received support of the youth digital job project, and the other person is scheduled to be hired in November after on-site training (from September)

Case B

       In ○○○ Co., Ltd., a software developer/supplier, R&D workers often exceeded 52 hours of work per week for short-term (1 week to 1 month) project period for software development. Accordingly, a discretionary working hours system was introduced considering the nature of R&D work, and a two-week flexible working hours system was implemented to prevent excessive long working hours. Therefore, a supplementary measure has been prepared to comply with the 52-hour workweek.

Case C

     In △△△, a company that operates press publishing business providing information on industrial products and a B2B integrated trading platform for industrial products, the workload of employees increased because of the new business, leading to employees leaving the company and working overtime. Accordingly, the company has spread the practice of leaving office on time and promoted leave by encouraging the use of annual leave. The company has adhered to the 52-hour workweek system by rehiring employees who reached the retirement age as part-time workers and by hiring new employees.

* 'Dec. 19. Enforcement of changes in employment rules to reduce working hours (continuous employment of the elderly, promoting annual leave, etc.)



<The progress and evaluation of the 52-hour workweek system>

In July, the 52-hour workweek system was implemented for companies with five to 49 employees. A majority of the public takes the system positively, and most companies comply with the 52-hour workweek, but some industries including information technology (IT) and software express their difficulties.

The 52-hour workweek system has been gradually expanded in nearly three years considering company’s capability to prepare the system since its introduction in March 2018 through an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties in the National Assembly.

- The supplementary legislation of the 52-hour workweek requested by the business community was also finalized through an agreement among labor, management, and government.

In a public perception survey carried out in the wake of the implementation of the 52-hour workweek, 64.2% of the respondents evaluated it as “positive” (28.5% responded “negative”), and 65.0% said it should be introduced as planned or earlier than planned (23.8% said later than planned). (August 2018, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

- About two years later, in May 2020, the 52-hour workweek system was ranked first in the socio-cultural and environmental field of “Good Legislation of the 20th National Assembly Selected by the Public” (National Assembly Secretariat, May 2020)

In a survey conducted in July this year regarding the preparation of companies prior to the enforcement of law, 93% companies with five to 49 employees responded that they could comply with the law from July. (A joint survey conducted by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, Ministry of SMEs and Startups, and Korea Federation of SMEs in April ‘21.)

- Meanwhile, in the Economically Active Population Survey, a household survey, the proportion of wage workers who exceed 52 hours of work a week is 7.9%.

* Proportion of wage workers exceeding 52 hours of work a week (%, based on total working hours including main and side jobs): (2017) 15.1 (2018) 11.9 (2019) 9.7 (2020) 7.9 <Statistics Korea’s research data of Economically Active Population Analysis>



<Support for the 52-hour workweek to take root in the field>


About three months after the enactment of the law, it appears that the 52-hour workweek has been implemented across businesses,

but some companies still express their difficulties and some do not adopt the system because they are not aware of the system’s improvement.

Accordingly, the government has focused on introducing restructured system to businesses, especially by providing one-on-one customized consulting* and briefing sessions for each industry**.

* (2019) 5,270 companies (2020) 4,096 companies (2021) 4,165 companies (Target: 4,400)

** [Central level] YouTube briefing session (March 26) Briefing session by industry (10 industries including game, root, shipbuilding, venture, etc. (May-July)]

[Local level] Promoting information sessions and meetings by collaborating with associations and organizations by local industry (July-August, 119 times)


Moreover, based on the updated flexible working hours system centered on information technology (IT), software, and R&D industries that have expressed difficulties in complying with the 52-hour workweek, the government has gathered and summarized the cases of working hours reduction by combining various ideas.

It will distribute this casebook in the field to encourage companies to implement the working hours system by referring to the cases.

Cases include securing flexibility in working hours system by using flexible working hours systems such as flexible, selective, and discretionary systems.

- In addition, there have been various efforts in improving the working culture such as introducing intensive working hours system for work efficiency and spreading the culture of leaving office on time.

Applicable flexible working hours system by the size of business

All businesses with five or more employees

Difference of predictable workload, such as peak/off season, seasonality, etc. Flexible work (2 weeks, March, March-June)

Areas where the autonomy of workers is important Selective work (January, March) or discretionary work

Unpredictable incidents such as machine breakdown or increased order Special overtime work

Frequent overtime and business trips Judged work


Businesses with five to 29 employees

Above , , , + 8 hours of overtime work (Maximum 60 hours, by Dec. 31, 2022)

* For companies with 5-29 employees, 94.9% of companies with 5-49 employees (742,866/783,072), companies with 30-49 employees 5.1% (40,206) <Status of labor in businesses, MOEL, 2019>

In addition, a Q&A booklet has been prepared to help not only employers, but also employees and the public understand the working hour system more easily.

It includes detailed information on five categories: Significance and principle of working hours, Statutory working hours and extended/night/holiday work, Flexible working hours, Exceptions to the maximum 52-hour workweek, Holidays, vacations, and breaks.

This book contains information that companies and workers might ask in a question and answer format.



<Future plans and directions>


Moreover, the government plans to provide customized briefing sessions for each specific industry such as molding and casting for root companies.

The government will continuously focus on providing guidance on the system and one-on-one customized consulting for industries or companies with difficulties.

Park Jong-pil, Director-General of the Labor Inspection Policy Bureau, said, “We will continue to provide support to make sure that no company is left behind in applying the system.” “I hope that companies make efforts to comply with the law by using the improved system including the flexible working hours system,” he added.


Last Modifide Date   :   Fri October 8, 2021
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