South Korea: Compliance Check- Working Hours

The National Assembly has approved amendments to the Labour Standards Act to reduce the total working hours over a 7 day period from 68 hours to 52 hours. This change further demonstrates the government’s crackdown on long working hours, and businesses should expect increasing scrutiny of their operations.

What has changed?

The old position was that working hours were restricted to 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day, which could be increased by agreement by a further 12 hours a week. However, a “week” was traditionally considered 5 days (ie 8 hours x 5 days = 40 hour work week). On top of this, employers were asking employees to work a further 8 hours on both Saturday and Sunday, totalling 56 hours (ie 8 hours x 7 days = 56 hours). With the additional 12 hours, the total work week could total 68 hours. The amendment to the Labour Standards Act clarifies that a “week” is 7 days, including public holidays. Under the new position, the maximum number of working is therefore 52 hours (ie 40 hours a week + 12 additional hours).

In addition, 21 industries that were previously exempted from restricted working weeks have been removed from the list, including financial and insurance services, research and development, broadcasting and accommodation. Five industries remain on the list, including various types of transportation services and health services.

When does the change take effect?

There is a staggered implementation timeline for compliance as follows:

Number of EmployeesDate of Commencement
>300 employees1 July 2018
>50 employees but <300 employees1 January 2020
<50 employees1 July 2021


Employers with fewer than 30 employees may – between 1 July, 2021 and 31 December 2022 required an additional 8 hours work per week (over the 52-hour limit) provided they enter into a written agreement with employee representatives.


Companies should review their working hours practices and policies to ensure that they are compliant with the new changes and, where necessary, update their employment documentation.

Herbert Smith Freehills can assist you with achieving compliance. To discuss how, please contact Fatim Jumabhoy at


Written by Fatim Jumabhoy, Partner, and Lauren Lee, Associate

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Filed under Jurisdiction: Asia, Working hours (including holiday, sick leave, overtime, rest breaks)

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