The labour reform government has decided to overhaul the current 52-hour workweek. Currently, 40 hours a week plus 12 hours of overtime can be added to a maximum of 52 hours, but in the future, it will allow people to work up to 64 or 69 hours a week. The government explains that the idea is to "work intensively when work is crowded and rest when we rest," but can it be followed?

How does it change?

The key to this reorganization is to increase the overtime management unit from a week to a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual basis.

When work is busy, companies and workers will have more options by working more than 52 hours in a particular week, up to a maximum of 64 or 69 hours. It's important to note that if you work less than 64 hours in a week, you don't have to take 11 consecutive hours of rest per working day.

An expert group that has been studying the reform of the working hour system since last year has recommended that the government take at least 11 hours off before entering work. For example, a worker who leaves work at 10 p.m. should come to work after 9 a.m. to protect the health of the worker.

But under this government, the 64-hour week does not require an 11-hour continuous rest. So, 24-hour vigil work, except for eating time, is not really a problem, and if you use it in droves, you can work all night for three consecutive days.

To explain a bit more

The government explains that the total number of hours actually worked is not increasing.

For example, if you work 69 hours (statutory 40 + extension 29) in the first week and 63 hours (legal 40 + extension 23) in the second week, you will have used up a month's overtime hours of 2 hours in two weeks. That means you can only work 52 hours a week the rest of the week, which means that compared to the traditional 40-hour week, you work a lot more hours in a particular week, but it doesn't increase in a month.

The government has also said it will activate a working time savings account system so that people can take longer vacations later as they have worked in droves. If annual leave and savings leave are combined, long-term vacations such as sabbatical or living in Jeju for a month will also be possible.

One more step

Currently, Korea is working 38.9 days more a year than the OECD average. Labor protests that this government could encourage more chronic overwork.

In particular, low-wage workers often cannot refuse to work overtime even though they know that it is harmful to their health, and when it comes to the right to rest, such as the use of vacations, they have packaged it as a choice for workers, ignoring that in the actual workplace, managers still see it.